Thinking Unconstrained

Defining the essentials of a workable human society. Topics focus on the ideals and areas of concern relevant to personal and group interactions.
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By Igneous
Setting the Stage

The current chapter concerns the objectives and the conditions required to create and to sustain the kind of quality individuals we had identified in the preceding two chapters. Although it is possible for our individuals from various walks of life to meet our standard through their own independent efforts, we also want to stress that relying on such fluke and chance occurrences are not the most productive ways of building our society. Rather it would be best if the environmental and societal structures were designed such that the yield and the likelihood of the emergence of our quality individuals would be increased greatly. This would allow for a more stable setup that can be continued on beyond a single span of a lifetime of an individual and without requiring major readjustments.

When speaking of the environment however, we do not necessarily mean to state that this is equivalent to the surroundings of a given place such as the flora and the fauna, or the habitat of the human living space. It is rather the conditions to be brought about and around the individual that affects one's mental space in such a way as to cause the formation and the development of the qualities we aim to produce. The cultivation and the maturation of these qualities are also taken into account and in this collective sense, we refer to the whole of the external stimulus as the person's environment. The societal structures on the other hand are the abstractions and the supporting frameworks that would embody the functionalities to help create the conditions, where the individuals would ideally interact with both in a collaborative sense.

This chapter will first focus on the environment to define and to describe those conditions we are to achieve. We will elaborate on the societal structures later on in a separate chapter. Once the objectives are identified, it would naturally follow to construct the necessary supports to aid in those objectives. Otherwise we may inadvertently create boundaries that do not serve in the best interest of our quality individuals, but could potentially create deleterious conditions that would inhibit their progress and instead serve as instruments for a far less efficient utilization of the human potential. Thus discussions regarding the supporting frameworks and the ecosystem will be postponed to a later date.

We will define how the environment affects our individuals in three general ways. These are the biological, as in the physical or the material interactions; the intellectual, as in the mental activities that act directly on the mind; and the emotional, which encompasses those difficult to define deeper and spiritual interactions that concern the inner core workings of the individual's subjective psyche. These three aspects are related to one another and keeping them functioning and in balance is key to realizing the desired results.

  1. Biological: Human beings are biological lifeforms and hence we have fundamental biological needs. If the necessities of the body are met, then the body is capable of functioning in an optimal way. If it is not, then the body inevitably suffers. The ideal environment should be such that the individual will be able to provide for the efficient workings of the body and it needs to be such that the material well-being is attainable. Without this baseline, improvements and developments in either of the other two aspects are difficult to achieve.
  2. Intellectual: Human beings are gifted with an intellect far beyond anything that is capable by any other creature on Earth. We have a highly developed sense of imagination that allows us to envision virtually anything, and a vast ingenuity to bring forth our ideations into material manifestations in wondrous ways. We are able to communicate in sophisticated forms and can share our dreams with one another through ingenious mediums and methods. Developing these capabilities are desirable for the advancement of the human intellect and for our individuals to lead prosperous and fulfilling lives.
  3. Emotional: Human beings are both incredibly sensitive and fragile but are also immensely robust and adaptable to many difficult circumstances. We often break easily but we can mend just as quickly. We have the potential to be swept up in passionate hatred but are just as well capable of bringing forth an abundance of patience, understanding, and kindness from deep within ourselves. And we have the frightening ability to destroy much but we always build, rebuild, and rebuild, because we are urged and compelled to do so from that silent voice in our hearts, and because we are each made of the sterner stuff. Igniting and concentrating our emotional core to be able to withstand and to carry through our personal moments of darkness is to be made complete and to be made whole.
The required environmental conditions of our society will be broadly defined to allow for differing expressions and implementations to be carried out according to the specific needs of our individuals. But these requirements will also be narrow in scope in regards to the desired outcomes and the goals of specific key developmental stages. They are the natural stages of the human life as one matures, or in other words the process of growing up and of growing old. Each stage will explain the requirements needed for the individual to succeed and state what must be provided by the environment to enable this vision. We will also identify the critical functions that need to be applied by our individuals so that they will be able to continue the process in creating the required conditions for others.

Although we have every confidence in the abilities of our individuals to bring forth their own unique works to fruition, we will not claim that the ideal environment is a guarantee to produce the desired results perfectly without any problems. With any environmental change, there will be difficulties and obstacles to overcome, and it is up to those who would carry out the work to aptly manage the transition and to provide for suitable supports when and where needed. And it is the responsibility of every capable individual to put in the necessary effort to forge, to maintain, and to remake those conditions that may be missing or lacking in their lives. Our optimal environment can only be created and sustained by the active participation of those who would keep it thriving and to keep it working as is meant in its intended form.
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By Igneous
Child Centered

Birth is how we are brought into the world, through our mother and through her willingness to give us life. She is the source of our existence and it is she who nurtures, sustains, and grows us from inside the safety of her womb. We are an intimate part of her, not only during our relatively brief nine month gestation, but also after our entry into this realm, where we remain closely connected and dependent on her for the most minutest of needs. Our survival is directly derived from our mother's ability to keep us alive and healthy. During our early years, she is the world and we are formed according to her will.

Mother is not alone in her monumental task of raising us. She is helped by her consort, father, who gives of himself to bring us to conception. We are conceived through their union, and it is he who ensures that mother is able to perform her work effectively and that we are both kept safe from the dangers beyond. Father is the one who mother depends on for assurance and commitment to help her in her mission, and it is he who forms the bulwark against the discomforts and the harms of the outer world, while protecting and providing for the jewels of the core inner world of family.

Our early years are almost entirely shaped according to these two individuals. We as infants accept them as they are, for they are to us the entirety of existence itself. We forgive them of their many faults; of their mistakes, of their ineptitude, of their frustrations, neglects and failings; because we experience their devotions to us and we trust in their dedication to be our parents. Parenthood in this way is oftentimes a painstaking process but we ought to recognize that it is one of the most precious, fulfilling, and most significant of tasks that is fundamental to perpetuating the human species; for without the union of parents, the individual would not exist; without the presence of parents, the individual would be robbed of the opportunity to grow as a loved human being; and without parental guidance, the individual would be devoid of the experiences that are necessary to understand what it means to be a family of shared blood. Mother and Father are essential. They are indispensable to the existence and the formation of our quality individual.

Our society must provide for the suitable conditions that would promote the continuity of this pattern of life. A human child must be treated as the most valuable of gifts and the family must be viewed as a sacrosanct bedrock for forming our quality individuals. It must allow for the coming together of kindhearted people to create and to support the family, and it must place the importance of the child's well-being above all else and above all personal and conflicting interests. Its individuals must protect and assist the mothers and fathers to successfully raise the children and our society must view these efforts as virtuous, constructive, and worthwhile in pursuing.

The importance of a child centered family is then an integral part of successfully developing our individual. If the child is not given the proper significance by one's parents, then this early error can have major knock-on repercussions later on in the person's life. In order for our individual to be well cared for and to be raised accordingly, the following conditions are deemed essential.

  1. Safety: Human beings are especially vulnerable during our early years of gestation, infancy, and childhood. We are dependent entirely on our parents to keep us out of harm's way and to provide us with the bodily necessities of shelter and sustenance. Through our parents, we receive protections from the elements, from the hauntings and the menacing of predators, and from a vast array of sources each posing as potential dangers to our yet to fully develop defenses. Nutrition in the meanwhile is derived from the teat of our mothers and from the spoonfuls she offers to us in our daily meals. When we are tired, our parents carefully place us in our cots or in our beds and we are lulled to sleep by the familiar tender arms, by the comforting scent of the beating chest, and by the calming voice that sings to us well into the early hours of the night as well as far into the high sun of noon. There is nothing of significance to us outside of this world; we are kept safe by our protectors and we are nursed in comfort by our trusted guardians.
  2. Attention: As human beings, we must use our senses to make sense of the world around us and we need to link and associate much to construct our minds. The importance of this process is more acutely so for younger and yet to be fully formed consciousness. The taste and the smell are just as important as the sight and the sound, while touch is the most basic of necessities that brings clarity to the material reality of our relationship with matter. Interactions with our parents is the most stimulating of these external sources from which we can use to form the mental map. This crystallization of reality allows us to build our associations and to connect the various ideas we encounter into lucid coherence. It is in a sense a laying down of the foundation for our future mental activities. As children, we require the active participation and the focus of our parents to stimulate our neurological development and hence to guarantee the structural integrity of our mental platform.
  3. Contact: All children need to be held to know that they are loved and all of us need to be hugged in order to feel secure in ourselves. Attachments and bonds are formed through this simple act and our emotional core is strengthened as a result of our parents' reassurance and from the active displays and practices of appreciation they show within the context of the family. Each hug received is an opportunity for us to grow emotionally and it is this which most nourishes our self-esteem. Without this growth, it is possible that we may never adequately prepare to take on the emotional challenges of life. Perhaps as adults we may spend, chase, and fill the vast emptiness within ourselves with inadequate surrogate pursuits. Or perhaps we may end up perpetuating the cycle of neglect onto others and even onto our families. A hug goes a long way in preventing these possible complications and vulnerabilities in a person's life, and it must be given often with genuine feeling; especially in the early formative stages of our budding individual. It must also be noted that we construct much of our moral understanding of the world by growing closer to our parents and by winning their affection; by doing the things that are considered to be good and by developing the discipline to avoid the things that are considered to be undesirable behaviors. Therefore the hugs we receive fuel the prerequisite emotional bedrock used for developing our discernment, and it must be built on a loving and caring foundation if it is to blossom into an effective ability.
Our child centered environment must therefore provide for the opportunity for the mother and for the father to be fully present in the child's upbringing; to actively participate in their various shared activities and to take an interest in the child's growth and well-being. The parents must show their affection so as to give them meaning, to embrace the successes so as to encourage them, and to correct their mistakes so as to prune away any potentially harmful growths. They must share in the daily meals in a common sitting, to journey together in stories and adventures, and to learn and grow together as a family. The child, the mother, and the father must in essence spend time with one another and interact with each other as genuine human beings. Actively doing these things creates the first group experience for the individual and this forms the foundation for the child's future group interactions as one ventures outside of the protections provided by one's home.

As for us adults who would support the early development of our individual, it is important for us to help the parents to succeed in their efforts in raising our quality human being. We must create those conditions that will be centered on the well-being of the children and we must protect their beauty and innocence from the harshness of the world. The protections provided by the mother's womb must be extended to the surroundings of the family's habitat, and it is we who must function as that protective layer that stands between the dangers posed to them and our treasures kept within. The caring loving environment must be a ripe and fertile ground upon which our individual will grow in proper nurture, and it is this upbringing which will allow our children to comprehend what a community of human beings truly means.
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By Igneous
Growing Education

The process of growth never ends for one who strives to learn and to incorporate every new experience into one's life. We as children take into account our every interaction, for each moment is a novel event upon which new associations can be constructed and from which new conclusions can be drawn. As we grow older and gain more experience however, we often think that we know much; far more so than we actually realize. We make mistakes and the consequences of our mishaps frequently remind us of our actual limitations as we come to realize that perhaps we do not yet fully understand everything that there is to know about our chosen domain of expertise. It is for this reason and for our own good that we need teachers and those who are willing to help us to grow beyond our limitations.

Our first teachers in life are our parents. We are born of them, we are of their blood, and hence they are the closest and the most familiar to us and of our needs. We learn from them just about everything that there is to know about being a member of the family and of our place within it. They teach us about the world outside and about its expectations, and they prepare us for proper conduct and equip us with the necessary knowledge to best take on the challenges that awaits us. We trust in our parents' guidance and we try our best to act in accordance with the direction given by their council and numerous teachings.

Aside from our parents, we have others whom we explicitly interact with as our teachers. These individuals impart us with the knowledge of the outside world and help us to familiarize ourselves with concepts and methods that are invaluable to our growth and to our success. They provide us with the formal education of specific subjects and delve into domains that are either not available or not possible to be provided by our parents. In this way, teachers supplement the family education given by the parents and help us to fill in the missing gaps in our knowledge, methods, tools, and essential know-hows.

During our travails through early childhood, we also come into contact with others of similar age. We make friends, we encounter bullies, and we find that we have nothing in common with some but get along tremendously well with others. We form our understanding of peer interactions by playing with these children. Through them we figure out how to navigate through difficult social circumstances, simply by being around others and by taking part in a myriad of complex situations. Our future social interactions and group activities are determined by elements garnered from such relationships as each momentary impression returns to echo fractally in our lives. In this way, we learn how to get along with others, to work in group interactions, and to find ourselves in the wider context of society. This is something that we must all do in order to develop our emotional shell and to strengthen our individual fortitude.

Although it is advantageous to learn our lessons early, education is not a limited curricula and does not need to stop at childhood. It continues indefinitely for one who has an active and curious mind. These are qualities that should be encouraged and instilled in the young so that they will be able to continue to learn on their own even far into their twilight years. Therefore the purpose of education for growth must be to provide for the suitable conditions that will encourage the individual's desire for learning and to help one to gain a deeper understanding of oneself.

  1. Mechanics of the body: The human body like the body of any living creature experiences the process of growth. We develop muscles to strengthen our motor neural connections, we feed on sustenance to fuel our quick and vastly multiplying cells, and we mature to full size to one day transition almost imperceptibly to that long awaited adulthood. Contrary to those other instinct driven creatures however, we differ in how we navigate through this process. For the most part, we learn how the body works from others and we are taught how to be selective in what are considered to be nutritious and beneficial foods. We are taught how the body responds to stressors and how to keep it in optimal condition. We learn various forms of exercises to achieve specific aims, we learn of the harmful poisons and of injurious actions to avoid, and we learn of medicines that can help the body recuperate from diseases and weakened states. All these are learned and practiced to keep our bodies functioning well and in order to keep it in good health. Education on the workings of the body, its conditioning, and its maintenance are thus critical, as this knowledge improves one's quality of life.
  2. Tools of the mind: The human mind is capable of tremendous feats, if given the proper training and instructions to avail of those possibilities. If left unstimulated then it can be left barren and filled with meaningless toxic waste. If challenged too far and too quickly, then it can break and become less effective overall. The education of the mind ought to teach how to think rather than what to think. It should equip the student with the methods and approaches in viewing and solving problems rather than applying formulas, algorithms, and pre-canned solutions. The student should be taught the process of derivations and inference of facts and conclusions rather than learning just the conclusions themselves. But above all, a bright mind is curious and it is this curiosity that needs to be nurtured; and there needs to be a fostering of the hunger for answers to one's questions. This attitude for discovery, creativity, artistry, and a drive for improvement of conditions is what dreams are made of.
  3. Sensitivity of the heart: Understanding other human beings and possessing empathy for them are not innate and readily available conditions of the human character. Human beings are highly emotional and often carry multiple conflicting feelings about many subjects. We feel compassion for others but we are also highly selfish, and while we may care about the well-being of our own kind, we are also indifferent, distant, and tolerant of their obviously harmful habits. As we mature and gain more experience however, our hearts often harden as life encounters make their harsh stamps and form callous shells around our inner sensitivity. Therefore it is for this reason that we must learn how to avoid becoming desensitized and of dulling our senses; for to numb our feelings is to be emotionally deaf, blind, and dumb. We should understand ourselves and raise our emotional intelligence so as to know how to deal with our inner torrents and to learn how to process, handle, and manage the emotions of others. We need to develop our skill in being an effective friend and to become congenial acquaintances in our communities and in our social interactions.
The educational objective of our environment must be to encourage personal growth and to strive towards learning. It needs parents to take an active role in providing the development of skills, knowledge, and viewpoints that will guide the individual on the road to fulfillment. Teachers specializing in useful subjects and of various teaching styles, who are enthusiastic about imparting knowledge and for growing the student's capabilities are essential to creating the type of society that functions and strives towards the proper nurture of the human being. And it needs to create those conditions that will help the individual to develop their social skills; by interacting with others in meaningful ways, by learning how to overcome their own personal hurdles, and by gaining insightful emotional understanding of others and themselves.

Our society must also be such that everyone can be a teacher to someone. Teachers of many different kinds exist and one does not necessarily need to be an occupationally trained professional to be able to fulfill this role. However teaching as a discipline or a skill does not come naturally to most people and thereby the effectiveness of one's effort to educate an individual can vary widely. It is primarily for this reason that we must learn how to teach and to develop that desire and the passion for helping others in forming their own understanding. This effort will maximize the availability of learning experiences for every individual and open up avenues for reaching out to vastly different minds of every inclination. Knowledge will then not only be amply be available, but there will be a varied and dedicated means to instill and to help those who think in different ways. Every individual will thereby be both a student and a teacher and one will effectively be so by continuing to learn and by passing on one's knowledge on to others.
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By Igneous
Opportunity to experience

Finding one's place in the world is a challenge and the beginning of any search is a difficult and exciting time for everyone. We hesitatingly start out as impressionable youths full of naivety, setting forth from the comforts of our parental protection to pursue the lives of our own accord and to define for ourselves the future we can proudly claim as our own. It is a time full of hopes and dreams, of numerous open possibilities, when we commit those first steps toward a journey that will take us on many novel adventures full of promising returns and life changing experiences. Being young is then a once in a lifetime opportunity to view the world through the eyes of inexperience; when we can look forward to the things that are yet to be and have yet to crystallize into rigidity; when we can stumble and make those mountains of embarrassing mistakes as we weave in the seemingly disastrous moments into the tapestry that is the shape of our character.

For many of us, the road to our independence first begins by distancing and pulling ourselves away from our parents. We plead and demand to have the freedoms to go where we wish, to do as we will, to be in charge of our own decisions. We test our limits as we propel beyond the set confines and draw ourselves into adulthood by that mysterious instinctive force emerging from deep within. The adult speaks and compels us to no longer depend on mother and father, but to look beyond and to see what is being offered beyond the horizon of our soon to be distant and farewell childhood. We eventually put aside the childish things of our prior form as we consciously decide to grow up and we take up the pursuits of the new fledgling role with much anticipation.

In leaving our parents' domain, we come to realize the growing importance of our peers and of our place within the community. It is at this time that the concept of status takes on a whole new meaning as we transition into early adulthood. We encounter pressure from others to conform to a social hierarchy, to behave in ways that are acceptable to groups, and we find ourselves operating in an environment that is highly complex and fundamentally difficult to understand. No longer are the rules of childhood applicable in this foreign setting. It is an entirely different world to what we are used to, where each young individual struggles to navigate through the strangeness and the senselessness of the surroundings and of their own shocking metamorphosis. It is a time of confusion and we try to wade through it the best we can, in the hopes that it will eventually come together into coherence and to make sense in the grand scheme of things.

Early adulthood is also the time when we discover our sexuality. The hormones of puberty transform us unexpectedly and entirely into a new being and awaken within us that lustful hunger for intimate union. We seek out those we find pleasing to the eye and arousing of our interest; who we can connect and to share our commonalities with; of our innermost thoughts and dreams; and who we can draw our time together in our most vulnerable of exchanges. We realize then that finding our love interest is an important aspect of being an adult and that we need to seek and experience it directly to know what that means. It is the core impetus that leads to the formation of the family, and therefore it is something that we give much importance, care, and attention to.

But above all, the most important necessity in being a young adult is to have the opportunity to try; to learn by doing the things that will help the individual to gain the necessary understanding for achieving maturity. Without this process, one never grows up and is forever bound to adolescence; in one's view of relationships, in one's need for surrogate dependencies, and in one's immature attitude toward every situation in the wider context of society. For this reason, we need to personally do those things that will suitably prepare us to meet the more complex challenges that are bound to occur later on in life.

  1. Sexual development: Discovering our sexuality is a shocking revelation and it is also a very a confusing one at that. The bodily changes occurring through hormones released in the gonads perform their transformational work, not only on our bodies but on our minds as well, as we are driven and torn into wild extremes of emotions and stress by the oncoming torrent released by nature. We are still partly children and are very impressionable at this point, which makes it a dangerous situation for falling prey to suggestions and of ideas that can interfere with our intended sexual development. Repression, perversion, addiction, and trauma can all occur, sometimes simultaneously, and can destroy much of what should be an expression of love that brings two people together in the ultimate form of intimacy. As young adults, we have an urgent need to understand how to use this new aspect of ourselves to its full effect in our future relationship so that we can experience union that brings not only bodily satisfaction but one that enriches our lives with emotional uplift and appreciation. We must mature sexually and that can only be done by knowing, practicing, and being receptive to those things that not only bring arousal and pleasure but also strengthen a relationship through the art of intimacy based on respect.
  2. Allowances for mistakes: As young people entering the world of adults, we need opportunities to prove ourselves in the eyes of our peers and to win the respect of those who are established, who can help us to succeed in our chosen endeavors. We want to apply our learning and figure out what it is that we wish to do, what are calling in life is, what we like and what we don't like. But most of all, we need to be able to make mistakes and to have the necessary supports to grow from them. Otherwise our youth is wasted and the energy that bring us our verve to follow our dreams is effectively capped from manifesting its full potential. The lessons we learn from our missteps are there to create further possibilities and perhaps even to prevent potential disasters of our latter years. We need our foolishness and naivety while we still have them to try new things and to take chances before our thirst for adventure dries up in old age. This entire process is what sets us on our actual calling and helps us to discover what it is that we live for.
  3. Finding love: It is important for young people to go out and to have fun, as this is when one has the energy, the time, and the ravishing hunger for novel experiences. We need to meet new people to expand our horizons and to find those things that bring us happiness. We also need to get out there to know what it is that we don't like. And we need to pursue and to avail of the chance decisions that can potentially bring us closer to our joy. It is necessary for us to personally do these things to find our love, whether that may be an individual or one's passion or one's commitment in life. We need to fall in love, to live through romance, to struggle in relationship, and even to experience heart break. These things are what make life worth living and we need to embrace them while we still have the capacity to feel their maximum impact. They are there as lessons to grow from and hopefully as catalysts to the beginnings of beautiful friendships.
The environment needed for our young individuals to succeed must then allow for broad prospects and a willingness by the rest of society to let the young to define their own future. The society should provide the necessary structure, support, and guidance, but it also needs to get out of the way; to let them forge their own destiny and to let them learn from their own mistakes. The process of maturation requires experience and this birthright must be given willingly if the individuals of the next generation are to develop well and to meet our quality of standard.

We as mature adults can support the young by first remembering our own youth. We are young only once and we should be happy for others who are starting on their journey. We ought to remember the difficulties we encountered and of the bumps on the road, of how wonderful moments were lived and how we were free to enjoy the pursuits and voyages of adventure. This is how one can relive their own youth by rejuvenating their memory. Secondly, we can give the young our trust and to provide the chances for them to gain experience. Let them make their own mistakes, provide council when sought, and respect their position and decisions as adults. Let them take responsibility for their own future but help them to correct their wrongs. Lastly, no matter how dreadful our own youthful mistakes may have been, they should not be a reason to deny the next generation of their own right to try. Theirs is not our lives to live. They must forge their own future by incorporating and considering our failures. The young have a right to pursue their own happiness.
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By Igneous
Professional competence

The markers of adulthood are characterized by the absence of juvenile elements in one's composition. When we reach maturity, we no longer preoccupy ourselves with the interests of childhood and of adolescence, but rather we shift our focus to taking on more responsibilities and to performing work. We reach a point in our lives when our chosen occupation brings us more satisfaction than to play; when we can exert our influence upon the environment and realize our ability to change our circumstances by our own effort; knowing that it is we who must perform the necessary actions to keep ourselves and our loved ones in comfort.

The concept of work is anything that requires an effort to obtain a desired result. It can be done alone, or in a team, it can be interesting, or tedious, but one thing that it is not is a leisurely activity. Doing nothing but play and being fed by someone else without personally contributing to earn is to be a dependent. This is not adulthood. Conversely, independence is necessary for autonomy and self reliance, but being an adult also requires the ability to rely on other people to do one's work, with the important distinction that others also depend on us to do theirs. In this way, there are individuals in our lives who we frequently interact with as colleagues, partners, coworkers, contemporaries, and all manner of relationships that can exist in our chosen profession. These individuals are who we depend on to help us with our tasks in creating wealth and of deriving satisfaction from our toil.

Within our home, there are those who would look to us for guidance and who depend on us to be capable adults. Our families - children, spouse, parents, siblings, grandparents, extended kin, in-laws, et cetera. These dependents need our provisions and our support so that they may live out their respective roles to their fullest extent, and they need us to establish a stable foothold to offer them protection from harmful conditions and difficult situations. The core family is in essence a team and the adults are its team leaders. It is the responsibility of the team leads to plan and to take action based on the best interest of the group and to manage how the family engages in interactions with other individuals. Adulthood in this way innately requires one to take ownership for the safety and for the prosperity of one's beloved members.

Beyond the close knit of familial interactions, we also partake in wider communities and social gatherings. These are the natural extensions and outgrowths from our desire to provide security for our families and from our want to create an optimal condition that is in the best interest of the larger group. We take active roles as adults to gain influence in our councils and meetings so that we can better service our needs and those of similar predicaments, concerns, and commonly shared goals. We bring attention to the problems in our neighborhoods and gatherings, we speak our minds about our grievances, and we offer up proposals to better our situations. The public life or taking part in shaping the wider world beyond the immediate concerns of the household is then a necessary responsibility of the adult. It is a difficult task often fraught with conflicts, where private interests can interfere, where bitter arguments can stall progress, and a consensus can seem impossible to reach for extended periods. Nonetheless it must be done as it is the only effective means whereby one can convey and represent the needs of the family to other families and communities. An active communal life is directly correlated with the condition of one's environment and it is this which provides the primary means of empowering to enact change.

While it may not be intuitive and quite contrary to our expectations, the needs of the adult are not few despite the self sufficiency achieved at this stage in one's life. Rather the necessities shift and move beyond the self to incorporate the needs of others. We may take charge of our own lives and of those who depend on us as we continue to develop our role in becoming proficient in our responsibilities. But we still need help to perform these functions well.

  1. Multitask: Managing one's time and attention can be overwhelming, especially when so much of it is required by one's close dependents. Priority calls must be made, important commitments need to be juggled, and opportunities need to be carved out to effectively manage one's ever mounting level of stress. Keeping constantly engaged in activities in this way takes a toll on one's body and wreaks havoc on one's health. Hence it is important to keep one's attention on the pressures affecting the body. Worries should be reduced by seeking help and by sharing the load with others. Obligations should be minimized by suitably organizing the priorities of one's time. And energy should be spent skillfully on those things that bring maximum benefit and away from those that feed and leech off of one's resources. We need to learn how to focus on the needs of our families and of our coworkers without experiencing burnout or by destroying ourselves through dependencies or from our own unrealistic expectations of ourselves.
  2. Mastery of skill: Being adept at one's trade takes a lot of patience and practice. When we find our vocation and dedicate ourselves to something we are good at and thoroughly enjoy doing, we naturally tend towards improving our methods by spending the time to devote to our occupations and by expending the effort on the tasks at hand. The tools of our trade are thereby mastered and our skills are honed to a fine point, while our expertise improves with every encounter and our applications of our gathered knowledge pay off in ample dividends. However it is not enough to simply have a job, or to have a career, or to have work. Satisfaction is attained by doing the things we are positively proficient at, and we need to do this in order to fill ourselves with personal self worth. It may not be our occupation that defines who we are, but it certainly describes our proficiency and our willingness to devote a significant portion of our lives in performing. Therefore it is only fitting that we take pride in doing our jobs well and that we fill ourselves with a sense of accomplishment from the effort we exert in our daily chores.
  3. Feeling of appreciation: Feeling appreciated by one's family, workplace, and community strengthens the individual and gives one a purposeful motivation to be a better person. When we feel that we can make a difference in the world and in the lives of those closest to us, we are emboldened and are inclined to live for others as much as we do for ourselves. And appreciation from those we interact with personally positively reinforces our desire to help and to live up to our ideals of adulthood. Being empowered by the support of one's community is then a marker of one's establishment and one's sense of belonging. The bonds we share are not simply for those who are dependent on us but rather it is we who depend even more so on them to give our lives meaning.
A successful adult can be summarily described as one who has responsibilities. This individual is considered mature and is experienced enough to be entrusted with the important task of looking after those who need their help. It innately requires that one is willing to serve others and to support one's team. Our environment must facilitate in encouraging the young adults to grow up and to eventually fulfill this role. It needs to provide the means for the individual to find one's professional purpose, the primary means of livelihood whereby one earns and contributes to the betterment of another's life, and to find the joy of accomplishing in the work that one chooses to do. It should be motivating and uplifting of the individual's potential while giving the opportunity for the adult to make one's life choices. This act of taking responsibility for one's own path directly leads to one's adulthood.

We as a society need to support the adults in our communities and families first by willing to work with them. We need to be open to the idea of coming together to empower not only ourselves but also to empower each other. We need to be receptive and encourage the individuals to make their voices heard so as to strengthen our relationships. And there needs to be family friendly activities and involvement so as to bring together different teams in our neighborhoods and groups. By gathering in this way and allowing for families to directly interact and to share in enjoyable moments, we build history and we develop strong communal bonds. The setup also provides opportunities for the adults to meet one another as team leads with responsibilities. Hence new friendships and alliances can be formed, which leads to the strengthening of the community overall.
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By Igneous
Steering leadership

Middle age is in some sense a time of waning. It is when we reach the apex of our careers as we look back on our progress with a reflective examination. We tally up our accomplishments against our failures, we watch our children leave the home to pave their own way to adulthood, and we feel a strange sense of loss at our diminishing youthful verve as we notice the impending onset of old age. But this is also a time when we shift our focus to a different form of growth. Although we may not be as physically fit or as mentally sharp, we instead use our gathered experience and knowledge to our advantage. These allow us to be more effective and prudent in our judgement, to have a better insight into how other inexperienced individuals can most effectively use one's talents to do one's work, and to have the confidence to lead and to help others to achieve their personal as well as group successes.

This sentiment is most commonly experienced in our professional spheres. At our age, we are expected to be responsible and to deliver on our commitments, to encourage and to support our junior members, and to effectively be the leaders who can drive our teams to our shared intended goal. Our coworkers depend on us to not only be competent in our duties but to also be the symbols for them to follow, to provide protection and guidance so that they may do their work more efficiently, and to see to the coordination and the organization of the group for our mutual success. In times of stress they look to us to be their beacons of hope; who can navigate through the complexities of the occupational labyrinth by applying one's experience, by overcoming adversities through the application of one's honed skills, and by possessing stout composure in the face of numerous difficulties.

Within our family, our once upon a time little offspring start pursuing their adult lives. These grown ups put away their childish things and begin to look beyond the home to find their fortune. No longer do the children depend on the parents for the necessities of daily sustenance but rather reach out only occasionally for help in order to succeed in their various chosen endeavors. Our own parents in the meanwhile are now elderly and we recognize that they too need additional help. We notice the little and not so little troubles with their daily routine activities, the cognitive decline and weakening musculature, and their apparent inner struggle with the realization that they had in fact reached old age. Hence although the responsibility of looking after our dependent children diminish at this stage, it is in actuality only replaced with a renewed call and a new charge of taking care of our elderly family members.

In the communities and groups we belong to, our fellow members begin to look to us to be the champions of our shared causes; leadership in driving projects and teams, calls for additional engagements and participation in supporting those who need help, administrative roles and others requiring many years of hands-on experience and expertise. We accept these positions of extra responsibilities because we are prepared to take on the difficult challenges and because we have the means, the time, and the confidence to deliver on our commitments. We interact with other senior members as equals, we help those who are our juniors to find their own footing, while we look to our elders who take advisory roles in aiding us to make better decisions.

But because we are advanced in years, we are often expected to be mature and to behave in ways that are considered responsible and wise. This somewhat austere and dull view may seem to indicate that there is no room left for enjoyment or fun in an older individual's life. On the contrary, this is a time when recreation should be sought and enjoyment be found anew. It should be spent on rediscovering one's interests and of renewing one's youthful hopes, while balancing them against the lofty expectations of our duty and chosen commitments.

  1. Dwindling reserves: The effects of aging make their appearance most notably so in our bodies. As mature adults, we acutely experience the end of our vitality, which we had much taken for granted in our younger years. Our movements become slow and stiffness accompany our actions, all the visible signs tells us of our obvious physical decline, and we try to manage our deteriorating condition using the best available methods. But try as we might, the ravages of senescence do not abide by our wishes to remain the way we would like to be. We transition once again and this time we significantly or completely lose our reproductive capacity and our once upon a time vigorous virility. We are tempted periodically by our vanity to live out our youth in full before old age consumes our bodies and to experience those things which will soon be unattainable when we lose our option completely. We long for yesterday but tomorrow instead arrives in waves of specter. We find acceptance difficult even though the result is inevitable. Rather than holding on to the past and wishing to become young once again, we need instead to come to terms with our present condition and to make adjustments so that we can remain healthy going forward. And we must perform those activities that are suitable and befitting for an adult of our age so that we may continue to function and to remain as bodily strong as possible.
  2. Picking hobbies: We spend a significant portion of our lives in doing work. Even though our chosen profession may be our vocative passion and there is nothing else that one would rather do, it is still something that one does to earn a living. When we find that we have no other interests outside our line of work, it is somewhat sobering to realize that perhaps we had limited our scope and that we had somehow missed out on our chances for different experiences. If we do not yet have a non work-related hobby at this point in our lives then it is desirable to discover one now. Not only do hobbies provides diversions to the monotony of work, but they stimulate new areas of the mental space and provide challenges that excite and reinvigorate one's motivation. The effort we devote to our leisurely endeavors keep our minds engaged and functioning, which helps in retaining our cerebral capabilities in our aging brains. It is important for us to have intelligent fun in our spare time. It is what keeps the mind young and fresh.
  3. Sense of accomplishment: While maturity hardens our emotional fragility, we also develop a sense of egotism and pride as we age. These are helpful in giving us our self-confidence but they also have the danger of bruising us and even badly damaging our sense of self-worth. We have in our minds our expectations of what we would like to have done, what we should have in our possession, and what we ought to be at this late stage of our established standing. Our sense of accomplishment however may not necessarily meet those lofty goals we had set for ourselves. Perhaps it was that our expectations were too high, or perhaps it was our own lack of initiative that prevented us from achieving what we set out to do. Perhaps this is a consequence of an unfortunate turn of events and cruel decisions by fate, or perhaps we never knew what we wanted to achieve in the first place and that it was actually our goals that were malformed and ill conceived. We set ourselves up for assured disappointment by looking back on our lives in this way. Regret is a difficult emotion to come to terms with and it is necessary at times, but we must not dwell on it and to use it as an excuse to limit ourselves or to use it as a crutch to not do what we ought to still accomplish. We must instead remember what we can still do with the time and the means available to us. The journey goes on as long as we have our breath, and we need not carry the millstones of our contrived milestones around our necks.
Our desired environment should recognize that mature individuals have the right to be responsible for the well-being of others, for the sake of themselves as well as for their dependents. They need to transition into different roles where they can guide and encourage the younger generation to make their own mark and to help them establish themselves in various aspects of their lives. The young should be able to rely on them to be their role models and to be their protectors. The elderly should be able to depend on them to carry the torch of leadership and to ensure the welfare of the family, the profession, and the community. The mature individuals need to realize the responsibility of taking ownership and to have the courage to take it on as an honored privilege given by those who would call for their leadership.

As for those of us who would support these leaders, we need to be willing to let individuals with experience and ability to grab the reins of decision making and to let them offer up their guidance. Their effectiveness hinges on our trust and our willingness to follow, and for us to assist them to succeed while they reciprocate by advancing our opportunities, experience and benefit. It is a bidirectional symbiotic relationship, where much can be achieved by working together as an effective team. This will allow for the younger generation to know first hand what good leadership means and hence they will be able to continue the process when it is their time to step up to that responsibility. If the leaders are successful in their efforts and competent in fostering proper growth in the young, then they will be able to hand over the responsibility to the next generation with ease and comfort.
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By Igneous
Honor thy elders

Old age is inevitable for anyone who lives long enough to watch it make its withering appearance in the mirror. Like a wintry chill frosting on the canvas of a once lush and fruitful landscape, we mourn for the loss of the last vestiges of our youthful appearance as we set to prepare for the onset of our slowing dormancy. Being advanced in age, we naturally tend to look back more so than we look forward as we evidently observe those of our generation no longer as the sprite young spirits as they used to be. They are now old, just like us, and we try to understand what that actually means. We ponder whether we have any usefulness left in us to do any good for our loved ones, whether we should simply take what we can and enjoy the last moments before our final curtain close, or perhaps even dare to pursue our continued passions right up to the moment of our passing. We consider what our lives meant and whether it was spent on doing the things we wanted to do. We wonder how quickly the time flew by and why it was so short. We try to make sense of our new role and whether our presence can still make a difference in the world for the better.

Our families start to look after us as we begin to lose our ability to take care of ourselves. Our sons and daughters, who by now have families of their own, lend us their help to ensure that we can function amid our continuously deteriorating faculties. However we also have our pride and hence we try to remain as independent as possible under the given circumstances. We aid with the little but significant things such as raising and looking after the grandchildren, with taking care of the family pets, doing household chores, making deliveries and even offering up chauffeur services. Anything that keeps us active and helpful, but also not stepping on anyone's toes by keeping our distance and letting the children to run their own households under their own terms.

At our workplace, we recognize that it is now our time to retire as our professional career comes to its inevitable end. Being a certain age, we feel that we can no longer perform our duties to our expected quality of standard and this sentiment warrants a dignified exit and a handover of responsibilities to a younger and more capable generation. We tell our coworkers of our plans to spend our relaxing days in doing the things we enjoy, and we share in reminiscing about the interesting moments of our history and of the exciting adventures that are in store for us in the future. We say our goodbyes, perhaps reluctantly as we leave the familiar surroundings to step out of the room that represents the long professional chapter that used to be our career. The door closes behind us, we breathe a sigh of relief, and we look forward to a new beginning of our long earned rest from work.

Our community life however does not necessarily end with retirement. We may find that we have more time and a renewed focus for activities that we could not effectively attend to in the past, and perhaps we may experience a newfound fervor for taking up new challenges. We make friends despite our set ways as we lend our guidance, experience, and presence to those who seek and benefit from them. We may also find it difficult to meaningfully connect with others of our age who we do not share a long history with. But the social life does continue in its own way. We often provide a much needed link to the past, giving context and support for the young, as well as in helping the recalling of those who need their memories refreshed; of how the world and they themselves used to be, and perhaps being that source for reminding those of us who forgot who we truly are.

And although we may have been autonomous and proudly independent just a few years ago, old age is a humbling experience as we come to realize that we require others who are stronger than us to help us get by in our growing frailty. We now feel and know intimately that we need them more so than they need us, and that is a sobering epiphany to have. Not only this, but we realize that we must receive their love and affection and their willingness to spend time with us in our growing list of compounding ailments. Simply put, we need those around us to care enough to take care of us despite all inconveniences and difficulties.

  1. Conservation of vitality: The functioning of the body naturally deteriorates over time and the outward appearances of this effect is only a single indication of a wider process that happens throughout the entire being. As we age, our bones, organs, and muscles weaken, the blood and the synapses slow down, we feel fatigued and aches appear in the strangest of places, while our skin sags and our hair struggles to stay attached. We adjust our diet and take up exercising to reduce its effects, and we try to stay in shape to retain our youth, if for a while longer. But old age takes its toll eventually as we are left with a body that often refuses to cooperate and which easily succumbs to disease. We find this to be unacceptably cruel, for we are and have always been young on the inside. But that is the nature of the human body and we need to come to terms with the reality of it. The best that one can do is to not become bitter over this fact or try to reverse the process of aging; for we had our time to be young and we were fortunate enough to have those experiences that made us who are. It is now time for us to move on and to let others have their proverbial day in the sun.
  2. Cognitive refresh: Like the aging body, the mind declines and starts to show symptoms of deterioration. Our memory fails us as we struggle to recall the simple things, we often forget and enter into daydreams, while doing menial tasks become almost impossible to perform. And as the body becomes diseased, so does the mind in its own way. We get stuck in thoughts, or make connections that do not make sense, and perhaps think in ways that make everyday activities that much more harder not just on ourselves but also for others around us. We try to compensate for the loss of function by trying to exercise the mind to repair or perhaps reroute our neural pathways. We remember often and tell stories to remind ourselves of the important things to keep in mind. And although such efforts do help in maintaining our cognitive abilities, the mind eventually goes and we need to prepare for this fact of eventuality. We must focus and hold on to the memories and thoughts that have personal meaning to us, and we must actively use our minds to exert our influence upon the exterior world while we still have the opportunity to do so.
  3. Dealing with loss: Losing one's friends and family is a difficult and lonely process. It is unavoidable, especially when we reach a certain age. Those whom we knew from our youth depart from us forever and our links to the past are each severed one by one in the process. We miss them tremendously and we lament our loss, while we try to ward off the day when we will have to make the final journey ourselves. We see our own mortality become evidently clear as the ravages of time robs us of our function. It is hard not to become jaded when control over one's body, mind, and social links are thus eroded away everyday. It can be terribly lonely when we say our goodbyes. It can be frustrating to not do what we once could with ease. But losing control is part of being elderly and we need to be willing to let go of trying to hold on to the wrong things in our lives. We need instead to live for the living and to hold on to those things that make life worth living. We need to lift and support those who need our wisdom, experience, and our clarity of vision to bring them our common sense. In essence, we need to love our children and we need to be willing to lead them in our own subtle and sometimes not so subtle ways as elders.
Our society requires an environment where the elderly are valued as useful members of society. They should be able to have access to the means for improving their standard of living to counter the effects of aging, and there needs to be ways for ensuring that they are able to live a decent quality of life. The elderly need to be able to retire in comfort and to be able to spend as much time as they want with their families, who should be able to provide for much of their needs. The old must have the opportunity to express themselves and to have their voices be heard in our communities. And they need to be listened to for their perspectives are unique as they can offer up viewpoints that the young are unable or too inexperienced to realize on their own.

While a young person would typically scoff at the idea, reaching old age is an achievement in and of itself. To be willing to live on even while experiencing the pain of growing old and losing much and to fight each day to carry through; this is not an easy feat nor should it be waived as a trivial act of living that we all passively experience. At this age, it is an actual active process that one needs to personally exert to stay alive and we need to be supportive of them in this effort. The elders are here because they want to be around us and we need to appreciate their presence. We must honor them, for they gave of themselves so that we may prosper. And we need to help them. Because despite all objections, the fact of the matter is that they need our help. They need to know that they are not alone. They need our care and our patient understanding.
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By Igneous
Rest in peace

Death is the ultimate expression of life. It represents the end of our time as living beings and a defining moment in which we are each brought face to face with the undeniable truth of our own mortality. It is inescapable in its approach, much like life itself. We may have wondered about what could happen after our passing and whether it would be anything similar to what we currently experience; for we would like to believe that our bodily death alone does not encompass the entirety of our existence and that surely there must be more to our experience than meets the eye. We acknowledge that the reality we inhabit was lived through our thoughts and by our emotional investment in things of personal meaning, and we bonded with those who were kind enough to have journeyed with us. As kindred spirits, we supported each other's efforts as we struggled with our own unique battles and we came through together hoping that we would one day appreciate the things that we did for one another and how the myriad of seemingly inconsequential and significant things had really meant. We wonder how posterity will view our time on this plane and whether we will be remembered in good light. As daunting as it may be, in our last moments we hope for a safe passing as we prepare for the final bow and our subsequent and unsettling exit off of life's stage.

It can generally be agreed that to be surrounded by loved ones at the moment of one's death is a blessing. Our family members keep us company and watch over us as we prepare to leave this world behind. Sometimes that time is short and sudden, but then at others it is long and gradual. We try to put our affairs in order to prevent possible squabbles among our family members as we do our best to say our goodbyes to each and everyone in earnest. The procession of death is a time of profound sadness and acutely felt loss that is heavy to bear on those who see us depart. We feel their love and we are comforted by the knowledge of how much we meant to them. We let them know of our appreciation and assure them of our fond farewell.

Coming to terms with one's own death however is not an easy task. We had avoided it all our lives as best we could and we seldom wanted to even think about the subject. The onset of one's mortal end is a shock and one of incredulity, flooding our senses with a maelstrom of emotions and rapidly racing thoughts. If we have the opportunity, we seek out guides to help us process and to usher us through to the end. They provide the means for closing unfinished businesses and loose ends, while giving solace and ease of mind to prepare ourselves for the ensuing event. They give us encouragement and the strength to face death with abated reluctance, and we are grateful for their effort and their willingness to console us in our time of need.

But no matter who we are, what we believe, or what our circumstances may be, we die in the exact same way in the end. We are each mortal, which is to state that we are equal in the eyes of nature; undergoing bodily decay and memories of us being eventually forgotten with the passage of time. Mortality is thus simply not a choice. What we choose however is how we live and how we face our end. And this final act of ours is our moment of test for understanding who we truly are.

  1. Peace of body: Most of us do not have the luxury of choosing the time, the place, or the cause of our bodily death. It happens on its own schedule and we are almost always surprised by its peculiar arrival. It is often accompanied by pain and this unwelcome guest is kept away at a distance as much as we can allow it. But the reaping cold touch eventually approaches and just like every other thing that lived, currently lives, and will continue to live in the future, we come to an abrupt stop. The cells of our body, each one that divided from that single source from our mother's womb cease to function; to become food for other organisms that take in our substance to provide them with continuing life. The body soon dies and we no longer feel its presence. What remains is a corpse and this frankly is how our corporeal existence comes to its natural end.
  2. Peace of mind: The active mind is dependent on the physical functioning of the brain. As brain tissue loses its ability to connect the neural pathways, our minds also begin to malfunction. The nervous system informing us of our surroundings fail and our synaptic impulses move in unexpected ways. And much like the death of the body, our mind too feels the pain of loss as we forget everything; wiping the slate clean to absolutely nothing. All the knowledge we had accumulated and all the memories we had cherished, the important moments of our lives are all gone in the blink of an eye. But memories of us and our thoughts remain in the world; in the minds of those who would remember us and by those who would think and speak our words and who would see and imagine our images. And even if nobody recalls our individual selves, our part in shaping the lives of those around us carry us on, as we are forever tied to the continuing and unfolding saga that is the story of humanity itself.
  3. Peace of soul: It can be almost unanimously agreed that the idea of dying is terrifying to behold. To deny it is to admit that one is already dead, and perhaps that may be so for those who have no life in them or for those who are ignorant or who have no conception of what is or what is involved in the process of one's own death. By rule, all organisms strive to continue living as a basic biological impulse and we are by no means an exception. It is natural to be scared. It is fully expected of us to fight against our demise in the best ways we are able to delay its inevitable approach. None of us want to die and some of us even wish and seek for immortality to be an option so as to avoid this common fate. But the end always comes and when our time does arrive, we need to be able to face our fear with confidence that we had lived the best we could and that it was uniquely ours to experience. Our baggage for this final journey needs to be light, and we need to make sure that we can walk through the open door without any overbearing hindrance. Because in the end, there is nothing to bring but ourselves and our peace and we need to accept this simple and plainly obvious fact.
We must have an environment where there exists a universal respect for the dead and where remembrance of loved ones is encouraged and supported. The value of a human being must not end with the death of the individual, but must continue on by treating the deceased body with proper funerary services and by treating one's family with the same respect as if the individual was still alive. The dying should be able to live out their last moments according to their own will and by personal freedom, and they need to have access to those individuals who can help them come to terms with their final needs.

We can support the dying by showing our love and by being there for them in their last moments. After their passing, we can continue to show our affection by treating their bodies with respect and by remembering their good qualities and forgiving them of their faults. We can look after their graves, their markers of remembrance, and by recalling our memories of them on occasion so that they are not easily forgotten. We must mourn for them to properly say our goodbyes. And we must do this together so that we can lean on and to help one another in our grief. Because as much as it is important for us to let go of the dead, we must also celebrate life and of those who would continue and live on even after experiencing a great loss and perhaps losing a part of ourselves.