Arthur C. Clarke wrote a wonderful novel by that title in 1953. Basically, humanity has reached the end of its childhood and is about to enter interstellar maturity due largely to the efforts on an alien “Nanny” species.
A friend of mine is in somewhat the same situation. He’s roughly my age give or take a few months and we share similar views on some but not all things. He’s been in and out of therapy now and again. He had an amazingly difficult childhood. His parents…well, they were biological and didn’t offer much else.
And every now and again he’ll have a realization about something in his childhood that’s not helping his adulthood and he’ll deal with it.
Layers of the Onion
He has lost count of how many issues he’s worked through. Every time he thinks, “Wow! That was major! I must be done peeling back layers of that onion now!” and every time he eventually discovers there’s another layer. He comes over, we sit on my backporch and he tells me about the latest layer.
It is agonizing to hear. And I’m grateful he shares his learnings with me. I learn from them, too.
Many years ago a math professor and I were talking about the quality of students he had. He shared that one student had been missing from class for several months. Yes, I remembered the student, vaguely. I assumed the student had transferred or dropped the class.
The professor explained that one day the student came and told him that he was in therapy dealing with childhood issues. The professor, a brilliant mathematician and definitely an Old Yankee, wasn’t sure what the student meant by “childhood issues”.
The student explained a little, not in detail. Not knowing how to respond, the professor suggested the student take an incomplete for the course and come back when the student was ready and had worked through his issues.
The professor told me he couldn’t understand what some parents do to their children.
The professor eventually passed away. The last time we talked I asked if he could tell me more about that student…
…who now and then sits on my backporch. I doubt he remembers we shared a class together.
I am constantly amazed at how much he learned in the few classes he attended and how he applies what he learned to his healing.
I tell him that everything happens for a reason. This isn’t determinism, it’s a coping mechanism. It’s similar to the religious belief that some god is really in charge so the horror one experienced had greater meaning than the pain involved.
Me, I wonder if the universe really is fair and we deserve what happens to us.
But I doubt we do. I think the universe is pretty much randomly deterministic. There’s a connection between all things but it’s at such a high level that the straight line from here to there is completely inobvious to us.
But my friend sitting on my backporch doesn’t understand that his childhood horror has given him adult skills most people find amazing. He wants his childhood to end but hasn’t quite reached that layer of the onion yet.
I keep on listening.
And I hope.
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