Aphorism 1: The world of our memories is totally gone. No matter at what point you imagine. You really can never step in the same stream twice. Think about that for a minute. It is totally gone. That is why we must write our history down. Because it will just disappear.
Aphorism 2: No wonder time heals all wounds. Eventually, you are a totally different person.
Aphorism 3: And the world one knows is but one’s personal store of memories. In no way is that as permanent as a world, the world.
Aphorism 4: Because the sands of time will wash it all away. So they warn us of how the world works. And like so many fools we resent and resist them. We have the answers, of course, we say as we already begin to fade.
When we were younger, we loved that which was new precisely because it was real. And that which was old was that which was very not current reality. When the older, then, look down upon the young for chasing after new fads, they ought to hesitate a moment. It is true that the young are more “beholden” to the momentary events for their happiness, but does the adult sacrifice the perception of the moment, of true reality, for the comfort of irreal, though regular, generalities? Is it perhaps ultimately true what happens to the narrator of The Polar Express? Do we stop hearing Santa’s sleigh bells? Do we stop perceiving reality as we sink into a silken bed, complete with silken eye cover, and comfort ourselves with the softness of memories?
This is why travel-time and study are such an awful bore to the young. It is taking time out of reality in order study what is no longer a part of reality. Truly, a lose-lose for the young person! And conversely this is why the young absolutely love live-events of any and all sorts. Being out–seeing and feeling what is happening is the height of sensation. And so the docile adults will nod their heads and knowingly assume they have “seen it all before”? But is this perhaps a pernicious assumption, based on interpretation of one’s own personal memories, and not accounting for present differences in the situation at hand? Undoubtedly.
Look to challenges too. There is no little boy who will not take up the chance to wrestle an older man. Truly, it is not he who is de-natured! And also it is not he that is fooled by reality. We assume since he is small that he does not understand that an older and stronger man could injure or kill him. Quite wrong. Instead it is innate within the boy to know that the wrestling is but a game and will end as all games end with everyone going their separate ways. Even as a child, the natural conception of society as fundamentally a fun game we all play of “imagination” together is still intact. And then the children stare at us stressing and wondering when we forgot how to play. When indeed?
The 90’s film Hook with Robin Williams and Dustin Hoffman put this idea into neat perspective. The once formidable and devilishly talented Peter Pan has grown up and is now an out-of-shape workaholic lawyer who values profits over family. Oh, and he is afraid of heights. Early in the movie, Wendy, who Peter believes to be his foster grand-mother, looks up at Peter myopically and says, “Peter, you’ve become a pirate,” and so do we all as we “turn” into adults. That turn is the opposite of the con-version (turning-with) which we must effect in order “to become child-like” again, just as we once “put away childish things” in our original “turning into” adults. Perhaps in becoming child-like again, we are turning outward again and truly seeing. Is this then Plato’s progression out of the cave but in a slightly different light? One sees reality as a child, but then the rules, laws, and words of the world begin to obscure it, to over-shadow it, and only when one recalls, through perhaps a moment of insight, which leads to one unraveling a thread back to the beginning of the labyrinth, does one find reality again. So, though in Plato’s analogy one goes from ignorance in darkness to knowledge in light to knowledge in darkness (or having internal light–and therefore the capacity to serve as a torch for others while leading them out), in this analogy, one would start by seeing the light, and then cover one’s eyes with the “material” of the world (like the Avaricious in Dante’s Purgatorio), and only then, after perhaps seeing a gleam of light, beginning to wipe the lenses once again. And then one is no longer trapped in the past, in one’s self-created prison (Camus seems to have been thinking of this in The Stranger), and one can again see and rejoin reality, or the world as it is.
This segues nicely into Carl Jung’s concepts of the persona, the ego, and the shadow. The persona is essentially the social adaptation of the individual, a blend of concepts of what is socially acceptable, and not much else besides. Imagine a person made of greetings and handshakes and tight-eyed smiles. There are some exceptionally witty types who get away with staying just within the rules by use of analogies, strange metaphors, and double entendres, but even they are limited by the rules of the social game and must act very restrained. Thus the persona, which means mask in Latin provides a useful barrier between an individual and society. The ego is then another conception removed from this in that the ego is the cluster of ideas and perceptions which think it is the being itself. The ego is the ideas one has developed, projected onto other beings (largely due to being fooled by their personas), and internalized thinking that these qualities are attributable to itself. In some cases perhaps it is right and in some it is most assuredly wrong, but in all cases it is certainly absolutely limited in the scope of its ideas and ability to perceive itself. And this is helped along by the existence of the shadow which contains within it all the concepts which the ego has developed, projected and then decided are definitely not it. What are the criteria for this judgment? Well, you tell me. Have you ever called someone a foul name after one bad encounter with them? Just one. So, the filter is pretty thin. And the vast majority of people, says Jung, see by the conceptions within those three conception clusters. Very few make it to perception of the motions of the archetypes or dominants of the unconscious in their lives and in the motions of reality. But once one does, one discards the concepts which one has hitherto used, and one, like a sailor, as Alan Watts would say, sort of sails the currents of the unconscious world. This is why all the greatest heroes (and several villains) are represented as sailors: Odysseus, Jonah, Ahab, et alia. They go with the flow of life–which of course one cannot simply “choose” to do without having chosen and acted on removing the world of one’s stained conceptions of things–and in so doing they live symbolic and meaningful and present lives. This means that what is outside is balanced with what is within. And really, could one ask for more?