Wednesday, August 7, 2013

A Narrowing Path

I've been reading a fantasy series by Ursula K. Le Guin, and a quote in A Wizard of Earthsea clarified something I've been thinking about. The reference to a mage in the quote must be taken in the context of a wizarding world.

"You thought, as a boy, that a mage is one who can do anything. So I thought, once. So did we all. And the truth is that a man's real power grows and his knowledge widens, ever the way he can follow grows narrower: until at last he chooses nothing, but does only and wholly what he must do...."

I believe every child has wanted to be an adult at one point because then they could do anything they wanted anytime they wanted, or so they thought. While there is some truth to that wishful thinking, there is a lot of truth to the above quote.

Honestly, if we didn't have to have a job and work, how many of us would? Not many. Or we would just work a little here and there. How many of us would go to bed at a decent hour, mop the floor, and weed the yard if we didn't have to? Not many. We would do it sometimes but probably not enough.

A child's concept of adult life is like a Peter Pan Never Land imaging. When you're an adult you can go to any restaurant you want any time. You can watch whatever you want. You get to tell other people what to do. Nobody makes you eat your vegetables. Nobody makes you do homework.

As children turn into teenagers, they test their new found freedoms with mixed results and learn from experience. They learn to be responsible, hopefully, and a good contributor to society.

As teens turn into adults, they learn that technically they have the ability to choose to do whatever they want, but there are consequences to all choices and making the right choices, though potentially boring, seems to be the best way.

Many people find rules, laws, religion, regulations, demands, and instructions to be prohibiting of the free lifestyle their inner child still craves. In truth, like the quote, those rules show a path where one must go and do if they want to achieve true happiness and peace.

There are as many variations of this path as there are people, but there is still just a narrow road that leads to true happiness versus temporary indulgence and amusement.

Regardless of any laws, commandments, and rules, can I stay up all night tonight while drinking and having unprotected sex with strangers and throwing rocks through windows? Yes, I can. Yes, you can. Yes, anyone can do that. Can I do that without any negative consequences? Absolutely not.

Any person at any moment can choose to do bad or good, but most choose to do good because they have learned that all choices have consequences. So can I go do drugs tonight to relax my mind after a long week? Yes, but more importantly, will I? No, because I don't like the consequences associated with it.

Can I go to bed at a decent hour after eating vegetables with my dinner tonight? Yes, but more importantly, will I? Hopefully, because I do like the consequences associated with it.

Yes, we all have the power to make infinite choices of good and bad at all times, but we stick to the narrow path, not because someone told us to, but because we know it leads to true happiness, which is always worth having.


Nat said...

I love this. I feel so frustrated with my youngest sister all the time because I feel like she hasn't grasped this concept yet. She thinks that because she's legally an adult she can do anything she wants. Honestly, I think her life sucks. She thinks my life is boring, and maybe it's a little mundane sometimes, but look what I have to show for being responsible - nice house, nice car, husband, cute baby, good job, etc etc. So I'm always like "I dare you to tell me what's so terrible about my lifestyle" because she can't really name anything, while I can name a thousand ways she's suffering from her brand of "freedom."

P & J said...

Thank you for sharing. I have been feeling frustrated by my responsibilities this week and this helped me realize that my responsibilities are good and important and can lead me to happiness more than letting my inner child run free would.

Meg said...

I love this. I realize this all the time as my husband and I become more conscious of the money we spend and the choices we make. The first narrowing was when we got married, the second when we had a baby, and now we're contemplating buying a house or a car or paying for more children in the future and we are constantly thinking about what we need and don't need - and we find that many of the things we would have just bought because we wanted them a few years ago are things that fall very firmly into the "don't need" category as we try to save money for the things that will actually make our lives better.

Lis said...

It's one of those lessons we wish we could teach others once we learn it. But it sadly seems to be something we have to learn for ourselves.