An Old Man From Jersey Explains: How To Grow Up

This is a mini-series of comics about a naive but curious ten-year-old boy who pesters a crude but wise old man while he sits on the steps to their dingy New Jersey apartment building trying to read the newspaper.

 

An old man sits on the steps to his dingy New Jersey apartment reading a newspaper. A naive but curious ten year old boy stands on the grass nearby pestering him with questions.

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An Old Man From Jersey Explains Life

TRANSCRIPT

 

KID

Hey, mister!

OLD MAN

What do you want, kid?

KID

Can you explain how to grow up to me?

OLD MAN

Where do you want me to start from?

KID

From the beginning.

OLD MAN

If you don’t define your end goal you can’t define the process to achieve it. So the first thing you have to do is define what a grown up is.

KID

So what’s a grown up?

OLD MAN

You’re assuming there’s really such thing as a grown up. It might just be a term that old people invented to subjugate young people.

KID

I’m not buying it. There’s definitely a difference between me and my mom.

OLD MAN

Well, your mom has learned how to survive in the particular environment she lives in, and she’s taken responsibility for her survival as well as yours. So there’s that, but it doesn’t necessarily make her a higher form of life than anyone who made the mistake of being born after her.

KID

So all I have to do to grow up is learn how to survive and take responsibility for my survival? I’m already learning all that in school. Does that mean all I have to do to grow up is graduate?

OLD MAN

The skills necessary to survive change every day as technological advancements, social, political and economic evolution change the world we live in. So by your reasoning, if and when the skills you learned in school become obsolete then you’ll regress back to childhood….assuming you went to a good school and actually learned everything your teachers taught you in the first place. You would also revert to childhood if you moved to a foreign country where your life skills aren’t applicable.

KID

Is all that really true?

OLD MAN

…only if you choose to define adults and children by mastery of their environment.

KID

But what’s the point of it all if I’m just surviving to grow up and growing up to survive?

OLD MAN

…maybe there’s more to life than becoming the prefect product of your environment.

KID

Like what?

OLD MAN

Like becoming yourself.

KID

Why’s that important?

OLD MAN

It’s the same for you and me as it is for a flower. You grow to your full potential and bloom, not because it accomplishes anything else in the world but just for the sake of experiencing the majesty of existing for its own sake, and since what you experience is defined by who you are then in order to experience life to its fullest potential you have to become you to your fullest potential.

KID

So that’s what it means to be a grown up? you have to become you to the fullest extent possible?

OLD MAN

…only if you choose to define adults and children by their level of self actualization.

KID

By that definition are you an adult?

OLD MAN

I’m not dumb enough to claim to be anything but lost, but if you want some good examples of people I’d consider grown ups then study Leonardo Da Vinci, Socrates, Benjamin Franklin, Confucius, people like that.

KID

I don’t know all of those people, but the ones I do know were really, really smart. I mean, they were born smart. I won’t ever be that smart.

OLD MAN

If you put as much effort into studying as you do making excuses and defending where you’re at you could become smarter than all those people put together.

KID

Would you just tell me what I need to study to grow up and become myself like those guys did?

OLD MAN

Just study what those guys studied.

KID

What did they study?

OLD MAN

Everything.

KID

When do I finish my studies?

OLD MAN

Never.

KID

But if I never finish then what’s the point?

OLD MAN

Everything you will ever think or do is based on your knowledge. The more you know the more you are and the more you can do. The less you know the less you are and the less you can do.

KID

But where will all that knowledge get me?

OLD MAN

It’ll bring you back to where you started and you’ll know where you are. Then you’ll have perspective. With perspective you’ll have direction, and with direction your actions will finally have meaning.

KID

What if I’d rather do something else with my life?

OLD MAN

That’s up to you, but how can you define your wants if you haven’t defined yourself?

KID

How can I be anyone but myself?

OLD MAN

A seed is not a flower.

KID

What about the wants I have right now? Aren’t they valid?

OLD MAN

Sure. Just remember that whatever path you take, you bet your life on.

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