In Archives, Uncategorized on February 4, 2011 at 12:00 pm

I wonder how much of adulthood is a process of becoming reconciled to uncomfortable facts—in particular, death. It’s a gloomy subject for a Friday night, but it struck me that a person is truly “mature” to the extent that he or she has made peace with death.

Take good sportsmanship, and in particular the ability to lose with grace. Part of the “agony of defeat” is being confronted with the fact that even our best effort cannot make the world the way we want it. In this sense, defeat symbolizes death, the ultimate violation of our preferences; and so, I think, true (rather than grudging) sportsmanship requires some level of acceptance of death itself.

Sports aside, I think we value many things—youth, prestige, romantic attention—partly for their symbolism that death is a distant concern. Being fired or dumped hurts not only for the loss itself, but for the deathly message, which helps explain why those things hurt even if we don’t want the job or relationship anyway. I think maturity is accepting that message and not looking for escapes or alternatives to it, which is really difficult to do. Well, enough of that! I may go get drunk.

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