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For the first time in history mankind has to assess and decide what it means to be an adult. Roles and expectations for children, adults, and elders were clearer once upon a time. Elders gave leadership; adults worked/raised the children to adulthood. Children played and looked up to mentors to guide them as to what to learn/do to become adults.
Mentor hierarchies of years have been dismantled (or torn down); technology makes youngsters the teachers to the oldsters. Aging baby boomers are not that interested in raising the next generations. Rather, they are interested in themselves. I’ve heard many people discuss (in a negative way) today’s elderly are not like they were in generations past. Well, they are not – they are more like aged adolescents. I hear more from people 40-60 not about what they are doing for their communities, but how much pleasure they extract for themselves.
Robert Bly called this “The Sibling Society’. Therein everyone is on first name basis, no one is allowed to excel, authority figures are shot down, and there is no allowance for genuine paternal and maternal energies to guide us. The internalized ideal is no longer to be good but to be famous or with a lot of possessions.
So how does one discard bad, dated, and poor traditional roles without the vital functions?
Adults know we are borrowing the world for a while from the younger ones. And the ones who came before us set up a creation of work we have no right to completely destroy. An adult has an element of renunciation. Adults focus on the real needs of children, not on their desires. I would define an adult as some one not governed by the demands for pleasure, comfort, and excitement.
We need to re-create the adult, and the honorable elder. How we are to do this I do not know. I want to see respect for teachers at all levels, have admirable leaders, clergy untouched by scandal, and elders in every community who draw children towards adulthood.