Michael Battalio

Friday, July 18, 2014

Serious conversations (part 57): Adulthood part 3

        This series is a continuation of my conversations with an atheist friend of mine. These are my edited responses from that conversation. The fifty-fifth – fifty-ninth entries deal with adulthood.

        Previously, I discussed and eliminated some criterion for adulthood. I eliminated education, maturity, and the ability to biologically have offspring. Here I eliminated age alone and self-sustainability, and adopt a couple of others.

        I briefly addressed age along with talking about having offspring, but to more carefully define it, legally you become an adult at 18 with some rights withheld until 21 and a last one or two privileges at 25. Beyond legality, I know some very childlike old people. In fact I think some adult-aged people aspire to childlike innocence (or foolishness as the case may be). I also know many young persons that are very adult-like, some by necessity and some by personality.  Age can’t be the deciding factor because of the arbitrariness of it.  How can you be an adult the day you turn 18 (or 21 or whatever) but not an adult when you are 17 yrs. 364 days old?  Or perhaps adultness is a graduated concept.  Are there degrees of adulthood? I don’t think there is any way for me to define this other than anecdotally.
        What about self-sustainability?  Are you an adult when you can take care of yourself?  Not entirely because, this also begs the question are mentally disabled persons adults?  Some cannot raise children, but we consider them adults. Do we consider the decrepit adults? Yes. As you age you lose self-sustainability, and certainly seniors are still adults. Some cannot even take care of themselves far beyond middle age, but I would still consider them adults.
        Perhaps adulthood is the ability to recognize mortality. Anecdotally, I cannot consider the recognition of mortality as adulthood. If that is the case I was an adult very young. I remember crying myself to sleep some nights when I was 8 or 9 realizing that I wasn’t going to live forever. It took me several years to begin to cope with that reality. It was terribly depressing. Maybe I should refine this definition to acceptance of mortally. I don’t like it, but I do accept that I will die some day (Hopefully not for a long while, I am counting on the singularity.) Let me state though that acceptance of mortality is not the welcoming of mortality. I believe you can not want to die and still accept it.

        I am left with attributing adulthood to some combination of competency, wisdom (whatever that is), and acceptance of mortality.

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