Ralph Waldo Emerson on Maturity

I cannot think of a better read that explains as best the concept of maturity as Ralph´s Waldo Emerson, Self -reliance. A Praise and a call to the independent spirit, to stand on your own, simple, effective, and timeless advice from Emerson. 
I think that by now I’ve read Self-reliance at least twenty times, and still, every time I read it, I find new powerful counsel, new slaps in the face that wake me up from my moral and spiritual slumber. I feel rejuvenating energy flowing through my body as if the words that enter my eyes were magical and I do believe they are. But please, try it yourself. Not more than a paragraph is needed to understand what I intend to say. Here: 

“I appeal from your customs. I must be myself. I cannot break myself any longer for you, or you. If you can love me for what I am, we shall be happier. If you cannot, I will still seek to deserve that you should. I must be myself. I will not hide my tastes or aversions. I will so trust that what is deep is holy, that I will do strongly before the sun and moon whatever inly rejoices me and the heart appoints. If you are noble, I will love you; if you are not, I will not hurt you and myself by hypocritical attentions. If you are true, but not in the same truth with me, cleave to your companions; I will seek my own. I do this not selfishly but humbly and truly. It is alike your interest, and mine, and all men’s, however long we have dwelt in lies, to live in truth. Does this sound harsh to-day? You will soon love what is dictated by your nature as well as mine, and if we follow the truth it will bring us out safe at last. — But so may you give these friends pain. Yes, but I cannot sell my liberty and my power, to save their sensibility. Besides, all persons have their moments of reason, when they look out into the region of absolute truth; then will they justify me and do the same thing.
The populace think that your rejection of popular standards is a rejection of all standard, and mere antinomianism; and the bold sensualist will use the name of philosophy to gild his crimes. But the law of consciousness abides.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson

Maturity is a sort of gradual realization. The realization of your own unique self and the powers and attitudes that only you possess and that only you can exert.

“That popular fable of the sot who was picked up dead drunk in the street, carried to the duke’s house, washed and dressed and laid in the duke’s bed, and, on his waking, treated with all obsequious ceremony like the duke, and assured that he had been insane, owes its popularity to the fact, that it symbolizes so well the state of man, who is in the world a sort of sot, but now and then wakes up, exercises his reason, and finds himself a true prince.”

― Ralph Waldo Emerson

First of all, maturity is fun. Who would you rather be? The sot? or the prince? We live our lives constantly preoccupied about our careers, about our income, friends, and everything else. But maturing makes you realize just how utterly dumb it is pursuing things that you don’t give a shit about anyway. It frees you up. It makes you understand yourself holistically and better. But growing old is not and assurance of maturity… 

You are not mature just because you are old

Maturity must not be confused with being old (although they naturally go hand in hand) for being old is not a synonym for being mature. I know young people more mature than most sixty-five years old folks. The old bloke that believes he cannot grab a guitar, start playing it, and then form a new country-jazz-mellow-electronica band because he’s too old is not being mature but childish. Just as the kid that thinks reading Harry Potter is childish is being, ironically, childish as well.
This is because they are not capable of making a decision for what they would like to do or to be in their one and only life, but instead, they let circumstance or judgment decide what’s best for them. Bought of them fall in immaturity and dullness.

Acting like a grown-up is not the same as actually being a grown-up. 

An immature person does not possess himself under his power and can, therefore, not stand for what he is and what he likes, he relies on what others think and like instead. He is not self-reliant, he lacks self-love that only he can provide, while at the same time, looks for it in other people. This eternal, external search will bring him nothing but deception and falsehood, from himself and from others, for it is essentially impossible to find what he is looking where it cannot be found.

Doing good. Your good, for your own good

What does it mean to be mature? What do people tell you when they tell you to grow up? What they mean is for you to take responsibility for yourself and your actions and to be able to hold yourself up, as well as physically as emotionally. 

It is one thing to change the diaper of a newborn and one completely different to change the diaper of a 25-year-old whining young adult, it just doesn’t feel right, in fact, it is blatantly wrong.

Being able to hold yourself up emotionally is a sign of emotional intelligence and reliability. An adult is a functioning agent of life, capable of dealing with the many requirements of it, however harsh. In fact, a man thrives and is happy when he is given the chance to prove himself worthy of the occasion. But a whining man-child is nothing but a burden to the men and women who are actually doing the job and living earnestly. 

The solution. Stand up for yourself, speak your words, do your work, and enjoy it as well. There really is no other way, nor you want any other. 

Thanks for reading. 

Ricardo Guaderrama 

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6 thoughts on “Ralph Waldo Emerson on Maturity

  1. One of the key aspects of maturity missing is humility. The current generation has taken self-reliance into a different level – it’s all about “me” and what we think and feel is what reality is. That is not a good message. Montaigne or even Niebuhr are better masters in the search for lessons on maturity. Emerson is a good candidate for North Koreans right now and maybe too much for an individualist western audience.

  2. One of the key aspects of maturity missing is humility. The current generation has taken self-reliance into a different level – it’s all about “me” and what we think and feel is what reality is. That is not a good message. Montaigne or even Niebuhr are better masters in the search for lessons on maturity. Emerson is a good candidate for North Koreans right now and maybe too much for an individualist western audience.

  3. Your writings always provide food for
    Thought. Living in a world of utter beauty and harshness at once is quite
    Startling.

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