Sunday 22 May 2016

Locked-in adolescence syndrome: individually and collectively

One reason that there is no possibility of significant socio-political improvement until after a mass religious-spiritual regeneration; is that nearly all modern individuals are stuck in adolescence (varied by regressions to childhood, or intoxicated insensibility) and almost nobody gets through this state to reach psychological (and spiritual) maturity.

Adolescence is, or ought to be, a phase - and ideally a phase lasting a very short period of time, perhaps a moment, or a day or two. Spiritually, adolescence should be seen as a state merely touched-upon, or bounced-off, in the business of growing from dependently-immersed childhood to autonomous loving adult marriage and parenthood: necessary but bad-in-itself. 

By contrast, our mass culture has for fifty years (and elite culture for more than 200 years) perpetually celebrated adolescence as a state, not a phase; and encouraged people to remain stuck in this state; and done its best to mock, hide or destroy the means by which people can go through and beyond adolescence.

The psychological problem goes far beyond the decline of marriage and parenthood; and involves 'getting stuck' - that is, a phase becoming a state - poised between the two legitimate situations of child- and adult-hood.

A way of thinking about this regards life as properly (or destined to be) a growth from the demands of the physical world towards the ideal word; and adolescence as the point where these two sets of demands are balanced.

The intention is that an individual passes-through this point of balance, as swiftly as possible; but if this does not happen (e.g. because there is a whole positive culture of adolescence-as-ideal, so people try to stay in the phase to enjoy this state), if momentum is lost, then the individual becomes stuck between two equally balanced pulls: one pull towards the physical and the other towards the spiritual.

The perpetual adolescent is cynical, because he is trying to get the best of these two worlds of the physical and the spiritual ('the world' and the ideal), without making a commitment to either; indeed, if he is an intellectual then he may spend his life comparing and contrasting the two poles of physical and spiritual. And because the emotional pull of each is balanced by the other, his emotions may atrophy and his mind become cut-off (alienated) - focused on analysis and abstracted from action: paralysed by indecision and unable to move forward (or back) for fear of losing something of what he wants. 

Once established, this phase-become-state is indeed difficult to move through, difficult to get-out-of - and this is reinforced by a society which trivializes and disbelieves realistic religion-spirituality; and therefore (for lack of anything conceivably-better) idealizes 'youth' on the one hand (with a nod towards childhood, from time to time), and depicts maturity as dull, boring, a decline into failure and a defeat - and indeed an evil, repressive, reactionary, state.

(The only 'good' adult or elderly person is, for modern culture, a progressive whose 'vitality' is demonstrated by their deference to the hegemony of youth; and their embrace of the sexual revolution, diversity, the mass media culture of narcissism, distraction and intoxication - and all the other nihilistic and ephemeral current fashions.)   

The only constructive way-out from 'locked-in adolescence' is upward into an ever-more spiritual life, which can only happen within a frame of religion-as-reality. But of course, the forces of evil are dominant in the Western cultural leadership; and they certainly do not want this escape; but are absolutely delighted by a society of hope-less, continually ageing and corrupting, would-be youths.

So it is up-to each individual to plan and execute his own escape from what needs to be recognized as the prison of idealized perpetual adolescence.

(Note: the above is based-on the chapter 'Levels of Consciousness' in William Arkle's A Geography of Consciousness, 1974.)


Sean Cory said...

Adolescents tend to be impulsive and emotional and because they lack experience will fall for flattery and pressure to adopt popular fads and fashion. There is a lot of money to be made from such people especially if you are selling glitzy baubles or flashy toys. Or can dress up ideology and make believe it is "new" and "cutting edge" and that all the best people believe that way. Aldous Huxley pointed out that of all the writers that have ever existed the ones who have been most widely read are the writers of advertising copy.

It has always bothered me when I see some grandmotherly lady strapping on a helmet and parachute in preparation for her next foray into sky-diving. This is always presented as a variation on the theme that youth can be extended virtually forever if you just never stop thinking and acting like an eighteen-year-old. That oldsters who insist on never maturing beyond puberty are then held in low esteem by those who instinctively understand that it is the job of their elders to show them how to grow and mature is not a surprise.

Elder Bednar delivered a sermon in the October, 2015 general conference of the LDS chursh addressing this matter. It is worth listening to this to get a rather clear idea of the value of age and experience when a life is lived with the goal of learning, growing and maturing in order to develop into a person of real substance and worth.

David Balfour said...

@Sean - That general conference talk sounds well worth checking out. Thanks for bringing it to my attention.