What Maturity Really Means

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“Any experience carried out deeply to its ultimate leads you beyond yourself into a larger relation to the experience of others.”

anaisnindiary“We are all one question,” Mary Ruefle wrote in her sublime essay on why we read, “and the best answer seems to be love — a connection between things.” And yet, so often, we forget — we disconnect.

Decades before Parker Palmer’s beautiful meditation on the elusive art of wholeness, modernity’s most prolific and perceptive diarist, Anaïs Nin, contemplated with great elegance and insight the self-inflicted violence of our internal conflicts. From The Diary of Anaïs Nin, Vol. 3: 1939–1944  public library) — which gave us Nin on real love, Paris vs. New York, the secret of successful mass movements, and her pioneering venture in self-publishing — comes a gorgeous entry from October of 1943, in which Nin considers how we deny ourselves such vitalizing integration and what we can do to attain it.


She writes:

When we are in conflict we tend to make such sharp oppositions between ideas and attitudes and get caught and entangled in what seems to be a hopeless choice, but when the neurotic ambivalence is resolved one tends to move beyond sharp differences, sharply defined boundaries and begins to see the interaction between everything, the relation between everything.

Three decades before Susan Sontag admonished that buying into polarities imprisons us, Nin contemplates how we can bridge our anguishing inner divides by embracing the interconnectedness of all things — the true mark of maturity:

I opposed subjective to objective, imagination to realism. I thought that having gone so deeply into my own feelings and dramas I could never again reach objectivity and knowledge of others. But now I know that any experience carried out deeply to its ultimate leads you beyond yourself into a larger relation to the experience of others. If you intensify and complete your subjective emotions, visions, you see their relation to others’ emotions. It is not a question of choosing between them, one at the cost of another, but a matter of completion, of inclusion, an encompassing, unifying, and integrating which makes maturity.

First published at brainpickings.org.

Image – depositphotos

Maria Popova

Maria Popova (born 1984) is a Bulgarian writer, blogger, and critic living in Brooklyn, New York. She is known for her blog BrainPickings.org, which features her writing on culture, books, and eclectic subjects off and on the Internet. Popova’s mother and father met in Russia when they were both foreign exchange students. Maria was born in Bulgaria soon after. Popova’s mother studied library science; her father studied engineering and eventually became an Apple salesman. During her childhood, Popova’s grandmother had a collection of encyclopedias and often read to her. Because of her grandmother’s influence, Popova was exposed to a vast amount of history and other varied knowledge at a young age, which fueled her curiosity of the world. Popova had her first job when she was about 8 years old making and selling martenitsas, woven white and red thread symbolizing peace and health. In Bulgaria, there is a March 1 ritual that includes wearing martenitsas; after March is over or until the first stork is seen, the thread can be taken off and tied to a blooming tree. During the time of this festival, Popova made martenitsas and set up a lemonade stand-esque shop on the street to sell them. Popova is most notable for Brain Pickings, a popular blog that began as a weekly email to seven of her friends. Now a website, Twitter feed and weekly digest, Brain Pickings covers a wide variety of cultural topics: history, current events, and images and texts from the past. It includes several sections: About, Support, Contact, Bookshelf, Newsletter, Literary Jukebox, Sounds, and Art, and includes graphics, photographs and illustrations in addition to written content. Yellow and black are the most prominent on her blog, as those are Popova’s favorite colors. As of December 2012, the blog was receiving 1.2 million visitors a month. Among its followers are William Gibson, Josh Groban, Drew Carey, David Eagleman, Mia Farrow, Biz Stone, and Evan Williams. Anne-Marie Slaughter describes Popova's blog as "like walking into the Museum of Modern Art and having somebody give you a customized, guided tour."

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