With the passage of decades, we learn what T.H. White calls the seventh sense of balance, referring to maturity and life experience. There is a point in our lives when we realize that our ideals that we held as children and young adults must either be abandoned or adapted to the practical, realist world. More eloquently phrased, we have at heart certain aims and visions of how our life should be, what virtues we will pursue with vigorous righteousness (such as justice or traditional notions of love) in what Plato would call our “perfect world”. These ideals set such pure minds apart, where their trail-blazing confidence and admirable pursuits appear noble and inherently good, untouched by the crude world or seemingly impervious to trials.
However, when we encounter real-life situations (usually in our twenties or thirties) where such values are compromised voluntarily or not, where the divine vision seems only illusory, intangible or inadequate for the current circumstances, then we feel the sudden burden of walking a very fine line. We are forced to concede to novel failures or shortcomings or weaknesses with intense gravity granted that they have caused us to make such a sacrifice of innocence or ambition. For some, this change may seem like a lowering of standards or the giving up of an integral part of oneself cheaply or callously. One may feel tarnished or bitter about having chosen wrongly or having chosen at all in such a crucial turning point.
After the fall and a period of commiseration (perhaps even leading a life in stark contrast to one’s values), we learn to get back up on that fine line and continue to walk, this time with our own burdens. Others abandon it altogether to pursue other paths, far from the road less traveled. Some hold the vision still in their hearts and however many times they fall again, they continue to rebuild their honour and press on. Perhaps their former virtue may shine through in their works albeit short of the ideal. We shall never know how we did until we can look back over the years and say, “Yes, I did my best”. Perhaps all that matters is getting to the end of that line, burdens and all. Our hearts still belong to the vision.
Never has any other truth become more apparent to me with each passing day. Though not an intuitive truth, it is certainly one that runs deeper than the realm of empirical analysis.