Archive for May 12th, 2010
Two White-tail deer are foraging near the lake where I go golfing, a male and a female. You can tell that it is early in the season because of the antlers that are still growing and covered with velvet on the male. Wildlife is found in abundance here on the prairies. It is a rare day when I don’t get to see Pronghorn antelope, Mule deer, White-tail deer, coyotes, fox, or countless numbers of birds. The wide open spaces filled with few people makes for a good environment for abundance in nature.
In looking at this photo I find myself comparing nature and humankind. I doubt that any of the offspring of a deer would leave home only to return and live under the authority of his or her parents as adult children. Yet, it is getting to be something that is more and more accepted in our western society. I can’t imagine an animal growing up and not becoming an adult intent on finding a mate and reproducing. It’s instinctual, not something that one has to think about.
In earlier times, humans didn’t have too much of a problem with adult children returning home, giving up their personal authority back to their parents, especially giving it back to the mother. No one expected life to be easy. In more primitive cultures, rites of passage ensured that the boy-child left the mother and became an adult, a person in his own right. Basic to the idea of moving from dependent to independence is the idea of separation. One has to leave the parents, this is not something one chooses, but something that must be forced in order to allow the youth to being a process of “psychological” separation.
We send our children to university as part of their growth into adulthood. Yet, because of our investment in our children, we find it hard to let them “fully” separate. We let them know that they are dependent upon us for their tuition and for their living expenses. It’s not that we intend any hurt, but simply that we want to protect. And, we aren’t above using guilt to keep these children tied to us psychologically.
As a result, the passage from youth to adult becomes a hit and miss process. Today, too many don’t make the passage until well into their years if at all. It becomes a singular individual process that is more difficult than participation in a formalised rite of passage. As Hollis says:
“Again, what is not provided us by our culture is left to us to do as individuals. We cannot avoid the task through ignorance, for otherwise the developmental process, becoming a man, remains undone.” (Hollis, Under Saturn’s Shadow, 1994, p. 17)