Where did I come from? Why am I here? Where am I going? What am I to do? What are my responsibilities as a human being? What should I be doing now?
The answers to those eternal questions vary greatly depending upon the situation and what the person is able to bring to the moment. A 6-year-old child is able to understand in a general way what those questions mean but his best answers to them will be very different in most situations from when he is 26 years old or 86.
These are related to answers discussed in the post, To maximize happiness behave at your highest maturity level, in age associated terms—child, adolescent, adult, mature and sage. With this new post those questions will be related to an earlier definition of maturity based on chronological age.
When the United States Constitution was first created there was an embedded ageism which recognized the natural maturation of human beings. It had a simple rule — a multiple seven years for the identification of stages of responsibility — to give a simple but measurable quality to the concept of personal responsibility.
Age defined responsibility
- A child was a human being between the age of 0 and 7 years and they had so little concept of personal responsibility that they could not be held criminally responsible for their actions relative to public laws.
- A human between the ages of 7 and 14 was held to a higher standard
- A human between the ages of 14 and 21 was held to an even higher standard and have some contract ability.
- A human aged 21 years was considered sufficiently experienced in the affairs of the world to be permitted to vote in public elections. See, present voting ages around the world. They are given the rights of full contract obligations.
- A person aged 28 years had sufficient experience to serve in the United States, House of Representatives.
- A person aged 35 years had sufficient experience to serve in the United States, Senate or administer the country as President or Vice President.
Since that time the rule of 7 years was adjusted a little (30 for Senator and 25 for Representative) in the United States but are very different for other countries. The point being made was that these were intended to be general guidelines based on maturity. They were intended to protect various people from misconduct of other people and themselves. For children it was to protect them from being taken advantage of by older people. The legal protections from poor knowledge of contractual obligations was intended to protect adolescents under the age of 21 from being legally robbed because of inexperience. The minimum ages for publicly elected individuals was intended to protect the public from inexperienced people making bad decisions from which an older person would presumably be protected because of the effects of more experience.
Those age recriminations are legal efforts to make easy those necessary distinctions in the very fuzzy field of human maturity to smooth the various allocations of human responsibility. These new posts have been about finding those things which will help an individual person to mature for fully so they may be able to live their lives more abundantly. This quest is complicated by the obvious fact that is best for one person may be poor for another person. Therefore it has been defining various maturity levels of people so the things which will be most beneficial to them can be described to them in a way which will make sense to them. That way they may be able to apply the suggestions most effectively for their own benefit.
The greatest long-term benefits are to be found in having a set of behavior patterns which provide for sustained benefits rather than short-term satisfactions or instant gratifications. This is a slow wisdom to accumulate for most people and it must be supported by well learned habits but better habits can be acquired quickly if the willing person has a guiding principle. Being in the presence of a person with the traits one wishes to acquire is the natural way to acquire proper new habits for a particular situation. However, it is possible to surpass the teacher after a while if one is in possession of a good map, a good guiding principle. That map is what the person needs and many paths are readily available to choose between. Many people will be ready to offer you a quick path to instant gratification, via drugs or purchasing another product such as a new car. By the standards proposed here the car is a better use of your time and money because it will give you a longer term satisfaction.
When you realize what your maturity level is at present it become easier to choose those habits which are just one step above and choose habits which are appropriate for that new level. Thus when you are about to buy a drug hit (immature) think of the flashy car you might get with that money (adolescent) or more comfortable house (adult).
You control your happiness by the habits you choose to follow.