From the first moment we are conscious of our own existence, we start to pick up on how the world works. Because we are born feeble, we necessarily endow our parents with the burden of preparing us for life as they already know it to be. They show us not just how to survive, but feel at ease with our own existence. They pass on what they know so that we will be able to navigate the world without them. The ideas they implant linger with us throughout life, making their unfinished business our own.
The irony of this sad situation is that independence cannot be taught by someone who cannot solve their own problems. Emotional maturity cannot be demonstrated by someone who isn’t fully self-expressed. Instructions for living can’t be given by people who haven’t learned yet how to live. The unsurprising result is that the vast majority of us will become psychologically stunted in childhood. We may spend the rest of our lives capping our abilities because of developmental influences from our most impressionable years. A few are able to use the pain of their early years to propel themselves into personal greatness.
Children take the most damage living in a society structured for constant motion. No time ever passes without a plan for its occupation. Culture knows in advance how every developmental milestone will unfold. By the time most people reach adulthood, they’ve yet to experience life without instructions. The search for identity is postponed by social demands. Paradise, once lost, is rarely found again. Some pick it up again a few decades later when they realize something is deeply wrong in their lives, but most die never even having really lived at all. When children cannot express themselves without restraint, they are left with a nagging sense of spiritual emptiness until they die.
We have all had inadequate upbringings in one way or another because we were not provided the tools we would need to discover who we are – and then fully act upon that discovery. So we face a crossroads: either learn from the mistakes of the past, or repeat them with our own children. The passing of values to the new generation is what concludes the self-discovery cycle, yet it is the step most often overlooked. Parents and educators have the most important jobs in the world because they tell us explicitly how we should think and what we should believe. Most do not realize the importance of their role in human development. We believe what they teach because we have nothing to contrast it. We simply cannot imagine existing any other way. Conventional education results in a population that has no idea what it actually means to learn of their own accord.