My hope in the next few weeks is to begin to develop a greater focus in what I am writing here. Namely, I will be emphasizing many of my thoughts and perceptions regarding the general perpetuating cycle of generational segregation that I believe is causing such great detriment to communities, families, and society in Western America. This damaging cycle, which has been going on (and getting worse) for decades, has much to do with the absence of intentional rites of passage (the handing on of manhood and womanhood responsibilities) from the elders to the “becoming ones,” the Western educational system which gives men and women the marks to achieve but sends them out as professionals and not necessarily the maturity to face society as adults, and the honoring of children and seniors as gifts to our society.
I won’t plan on any specific order, but I am sure there will be repetition of some of the main things I feel need to happen. Starting with education…
I have been through the education system. High school, college, graduate school (seminary)… I’ve done them all. My sense is that the Western modern educational system leaves men and women still wondering what it means to be a functioning and mature adult in our society. What they do get is a lot of knowledge and a degree that shows that they are responsible in their field… sometimes even an expert. The final goal is most often based on what they are now able to produce, or the job that they are now able to get. We then send them off into the world, telling them that money-making, job keeping, house and car buying, and family raising is all up to them to figure out. But there is so much that they do not get.
Young adults do not necessarily get elders who show them what it means to live life maturely and selflessly. They do not get lessons on conflict management, self-awareness, and honorable behavior. They are instead sent out into society without any sort of leadership in character development. This is something they must figure out on their own. I see the problem being that they don’t have any idea of where to look for it. They could try churches, but I have much doubt that they are finding it to a great degree there, as much of our churches are based on the modern education system anyway… about producing a packaged product bound for “success.” They could look at the media… but media does a terrible job honoring humanity and the gifts that we can offer as mature men and women. They could try to find their elders themselves, but this is a daunting process that often amounts to an endless pursuit of ever-elusive elders that have “done their work in society” and are looking to do their own thing now.
No one steps in to take over where our fathers and mothers have left off and we are left with trying to find replacements who will heal many of the wounds from which we have never recovered. I would argue that the perhaps the majority of adults in our society are still floundering in adolescence… lost during their most transformative years. It is not only until LIFE initiates us (at 50.55.60 when we look back and wonder what we have really done in life and why we feel so unfulfilled) that we as men and women begin to realize that there is more to life than being a professional getting a good paycheck and having a “safe” environment for one’s family (if they can even provide this!). Unfortunately, it is too late for our kids. We have already sent them off to “further their education” in a system that is directing them to learn the same values that we have all been learning all along. They are already on the track to being stuck in adolescence.
I’m not sure that the education system is what really has to change… more so, the perspective of the elders and those “becoming-ones” who will be elders one day. A larger topic for a later day.