Recently, in response to another bloggers writing, I suggested that we humans are in the last gasp of puberty (see http://jhawk1206.wordpress.com/2010/08/14/mirror-of-god/). He asked for clarification, hence this post.
Initially I thought to run through the work of Abraham Maslow, Erik Erikson, Jean Piaget and Lawrence Kohlberg, comparing and contrasting the stages an adolescent must work through to what we humans as a group are working through; clearly demonstrating how humanity is growing and where it’s at on this same psychological journey.
But honestly, what I came up with, whilst academically strong, lacked the down to earthiness that strikes me every time I open to the outside world. So instead I thought I’d write a little differently today and compare some of the behaviour outside of my door to some occurrences inside my door right now.
Mr. 14 is an amazingly beautiful kid but for all his wonderful points, he is fourteen and as such has many fourteen year old moments. It would be insane for me to give him a hard time for the stage of development he’s in. (Please see https://leesis.wordpress.com/2010/07/31/teenagers-give-me-the-sh-ts/ , specifically on our impatient responses to adolescents). The hard time I so often hear folk expressing towards us folks as a whole.
Getting him to clean up his mess is a never-ending battle. He understands he should, that it’s his mess to clean up, but, well, he really wants someone else (guess who) to do it for him.
He even sometimes tries denial that it’s his mess at all which is pretty outstanding given there’s only me and him and no matter what he says the ferret and dog did not help make it! Oh and the “it’s not that messy mum” is one that can have my eyes rolling in my head!
Now, relating that to humanity. Consider climate destruction (‘change’ is such a bullshit word). So we made a mess and ever since we’ve recognized that mess we’ve been arguing about who is responsible for its creation and clean up, whether it really is a mess in the first place, and searched for ways where we don’t have to take any action at all. We are doing real good on that one!
Mr. 14 has very similar responses when I finally demand action be taken. Is it just me that sees the similarities?
Mr. 14 has very strong opinions on religion too. “I hate it; it’s buggered up the world…its all crap!” I suggest that is as limited as those who say they have THE TRUTH.
Carefully I take him through the history of world religions or rather, the history of humans search for understanding of purpose, of pre and post death, of something that might be smarter than us, thus theology, mythology, psychology.
We talk of how the idea of God might have developed, then and now. He gets it but then states;
“But they’re all wankers mum. They fight each other over who’s right.” He points out the use of violence to enforce religous belief. I point out his temper when he doesn’t get his way.
Fortunately Mr. 14 has always been taught to examine his own feelings and behavior as much, indeed more, than the behavior of others. He quickly gets my point and again I am stuck how our society reflects the stages of adolescence.
Son gets riled up yet again and says with some justification,
“But I’m only fourteen mum. I’m meant to make these mistakes!” But I ask him why he thinks as a group we adults should have it all together?
We talk of how humanity has developed; the difficult growing pains it has suffered. I talk of the impact of being born under any one particular culture, of the difference between how individuals behave singularly compared to when we come together in groups. And am easily able to use examples from his life right now.
I talk of the challenges we have faced over recorded history. Of how we struggle between individual rights and the well-being of the community; how we try to integrate the emotional with the reasonable; meaning with action. All the struggles he himself is currently dealing with.
I talk of how once there were many different gods and how as time has moved so our image of god changed becoming one rather than many or is it many in one. And I speak of how this is reflected in our own growth being one and many at the same time. And of the exciting possibilities of where all this will lead us.
And I compare our theological journey of discovery with our scientific journey of discovery and how as each chunk of time passes more knowledge is added, some let go…needed no more. Thus we can see how speaking in absolutes is just another stage of psychological evolution.
The knowledge speaks more of who we are in this current time period than how we were, or will become.
So…referring back to JHawks blog when he asks;
“Why can’t I understand the face I am staring into? Why can’t I understand where it all comes from and where it is going?”
Because we are young yet. We are growing, learning, discovering. I brought a lovely world history chart from England many years ago that shows the significant civilizations, philosophers, scientific discoveries, political struggles etc in a chronological fashion from the beginning of recorded history to the year 2000 all in one view.
This longitudinal aspect is outstanding for me. In one image we can see humanities growth, challenges, success and failures. And there is no doubt despite the snakes with the ladders, we are slowly ascending.
I have little doubt that we are, as a group, in the last gasp of puberty. Like my son we resist, we struggle, we blame others, we fight over rightness. We share with adolecants the tendency to still want to see in black and white only. We struggle with our needs versing the needs of others. All of these issues can bring great distress and frustration.
But in looking at humanity through the eyes of developmental psychology I have lost my frustration. It seems as foolish as telling off a baby for not walking, my son for being emotional, a five-year old for failing algebra.
So I will finish with a quote from my article on teenagers;
“…I would encourage us to use education, tolerance, and persistent patience with a serious dose of empathy and self-disclosure added when we interact…
I wrote this specifically for adults to teens. But I find no fault in applying it directly to us all.