16.11 – Is our culture preventing us from growing up?
Children desire toys and cry when thwarted and angered.
Undiscriminating desire and unmanaged anger – these two defining emotions of childishness underlie many of our sociological problems. Today, most people, even if grown-up physically, remain childish emotionally; their physical growth just changes the toys they desire and the ways they cry. In the game of status that characterizes adult society, the toys range from the latest electronic gadgets to the best-looking sexual partners. And the crying takes the form of depression, even suicide, at one extreme and violence, even murder, at the other extreme.
The ability to manage our emotions – our desires and our tempers – is central to growing up. Adults can subordinate their emotionality to their rationality. But our materialistic culture deliberately prevents us from growing up. Its billboards and commercials relentlessly bombard us with desires for things that are not necessities, but luxuries. These things are essentially toys that incite us to play the status game with an irrational feverishness. Ads are expressly designed to trigger our emotionality by initially sidestepping and eventually sabotaging our rationality. Thus, the culture keeps us childish emotionally and thereby exploits us economically.
If we wish to grow up emotionally, we need to boost our rationality with spirituality. As long as we imagine material pleasures to be the purpose of life, the Bhagavad-gita (16.11) indicates that innumerable material desires will continue to bind us. But when we rationally understand that we are spiritual beings and personally relish devotional fulfillment, then we realize that status symbols are not sources of happiness, as we had been made to believe earlier; they are distractors from real spiritual happiness. This realization empowers us to break free from the captivity of childish emotions and grow up to receive the lasting inner fulfillment that is our rightful spiritual legacy.