10 Questions with Mr. Maaia
Interview by Mabry Griffin'18
Griffin: What is your favorite philosophical school of thought? What is it about, and why?
Maaia: Idealism, particularly Friedrich Schelling’s Romantic Idealism. Schelling saw that while the physical world is a primary fact of our reality, our interior world is just as primary. And if we have interiority as a characteristic, then why wouldn’t the rest of the universe have an interiority as well? I think this idea – the fact that the universe is spirit and matter—is an important one for us to keep in mind ethically, environmentally, and even physically. Some physicists are saying they don’t even know what matter really is, and I think it might be helpful to have Schelling’s view in mind.
Griffin: If you could only listen to one album for the rest of your life, what would it be?
Maaia: That’s easy! The Beatles’ “Abbey Road.” Listen to it in a quiet room, all the way through, with good headphones or speakers. It’s an experience.
Griffin: Describe a moment in your life when you've had an epiphany.
Maaia: There was a moment where I made (what is sometimes called) “the mind-body connection.” It’s where you realize that what you put into your body—food, thoughts, etc.—is what you become. I know it sounds basic, because we all know “you are what you eat,” but it’s different to have this firsthand experience of it. It really means something then, and you can’t ignore it any more.
Griffin: Do you believe that there are any "universal truths"? What do you think they are?
Maaia: There must be! Because if I said “There are no universal truths,” then that would be a universal truth. One I am sure of is that kids always want to stay up late, but they always have to go to bed. I am not sure what the rest of them are, but I always go back to what Niels Bohr said: “The opposite of a fact is a falsehood, but the opposite of one profound truth may very well be another profound truth.”
Griffin: What is the most interesting class you have ever taken?
Maaia: This is a tough one, because I have been fortunate enough to have so many. If I had to pick one, it would be my senior year World Religions course. My teacher presented each of these religions in such a way that I could see the truth and wisdom in all of them.
Griffin: If you had to explain what you were like when you were our age, how would you describe yourself?
Maaia: When I was your age, I was desperately trying to be everything. Student-athlete-musician-scholar-boyfriend-comedian-artist-politician. I wish I had just been “Justin.” Deep down I knew I was an introvert who liked to write, to make art, and to hang out with my girlfriend. I’m thankful I survived my “be everything” stage so that I can work on “just being” now.
Griffin: To what extent do humans need to take control of their lives, and how big of a role does fate take on, in response?
Maaia: I’ve heard it said, “Pray as if everything depends on God, but act as if everything depends on you,” But I am learning it might be better to pray as if everything depends on you and act as if everything depends on God.
Griffin: What do you think makes the Close different from any other place? The good, the bad, the ugly.
Maaia: What makes the Close different from any other place? It’s a paradox. Boys at a girls school; girls at a boys school; a cathedral with yoga classes; the most outwardly beautiful place teaching you that it’s what’s on the inside that counts. I love these paradoxes. The world is an ambiguous place: Heraclitus said you cannot step twice into the same river. But since we can’t express ambiguity well, I will settle for paradox.