By Chris Wilson
Since life first emerged as a viable force in earth it is perfectly fair to presume that maturity is, as often claimed, a product of our upbringing, our environment, our comprehension of all things around us; and our reaction to all three. It is the same for all life and for all time, but God help the human baby, he really has got an enormous hill to climb. Think of most life around us, and soon all will become clear.
For most life forms the challenges are really quite straightforward. First they need to survive, which is often problem in itself when they are part of a food chain, but if they do survive, they need to source food, wafer, and territory. For the human baby though there is just one other little complication; it has one thing that few other living things possess. Inconvenient, stubborn and obtuse, yet wonderfully creative and all-powerful, it is about to inspire him, yet drop him deep in the mire over an entire lifetime to come. What is this thing, it is the cognitive mind, that wonderful yet illusive animal within us all, and it is with the infant mind that we begin, and then follow as it leads us up until adulthood.
When the baby looks around at its new surroundings, things must look pretty good. Everybody jumps to its commands and it is fed, wiped and watered, at generally acceptable intervals. It is true that each interval may, at times, be stretched, and it is equally true that sometimes it need to scream and shout to trigger an appropriate response, but the people who serve it are very helpful, and at times downright hilarious. Look behind the beguiling open eyes though and realise how the baby really feels. There is so very much it wants to do, but so little it can achieve. Here the poor little devil lies, full of energy with a mind already straining at the leash, but with a body that seemingly lacks potential, and a language barrier which is infuriating. Well, now we are that baby, and something tells us that things will or eventually must change, and after three or four years a great change occurs.
We learn to speak the language of those around us and, at last, to ask the wonderful question of “Why!” So what happens then, we are told to be quiet and told not to ask “Why!”? It really is both infuriating and confusing, and little do we know it sets a trend which an unknown body called “They” will demand we follow forever. It is absurd though, as we go from one lingual jail to another, and very little stands in between. Up until now they have been begging us to speak; generally to recognise mum and dad, then when we do so with any fluidity we are told keep quiet, and this at time when our mind and body is desperately seeking answers and information from wherever it may be obtained. This is an illogical message, and a crazy lesson in life, that will be repeated many times over the years to come, and often under circumstances of increasing complexity. We are still children however, so while still asking this interrogative question we generally have pleasant time up until the next bombshell is dropped, they send us of to school.
Stupid thing to do when viewed through the eyes of a child, stupid, cruel, but at the same time a little exciting. Stupid and cruel as they are taking us from a safe and secure environment, but exciting as new experiences await and they might be rather fun. We wonder what we have done so wrong to be dismissed from the secure parental home, but, at first, school is just playtime, so we actually find it quite enjoyable. Nothing this good lasts forever though and soon, too soon for comfort, school begins to get serious and real education takes us in hand. We are told, by our purportedly wiser elders that such education will be good for us, but as we look around us we think they must be mad. There we are trying to have fun, and trying to express our individuality, when, most unfairly, the chains are slapped on again.
We are crammed into a uniform, stuffed full of facts, class sizes increase, and of course we have to sit exams, assessments, and of course homework, with our parents all the time reminding us that, in their day, things were much worse. Now some of this seems fine, as we don’t have to worry about what to wear, we can always hide at the back of the classroom, and though homework is a bore exams can always be put on a back burner for a month or two. What is hard to accept though is the kind of facts or information that is thrown at us. We might accept that in order to make a go of life we have to force fed facts as if we were a Christmas turkey, but how much of that stuffing do most of us actually use, and where or when are we taught about the real lessons in life to come.
We are still sussing out the world around us, and trying to make sense of both the individual and communal idiocy that we see all around us, but even we know that we need help in order to understand why such idiocy occurs. So how are we helped in this most practical of causes? We are taught about religions that we probably wont ever follow, biological dissection we find disgusting, obsolete history, and literature we will never refer to or read again. We do have sports of course; surely they are designed and operated to get us ready for the cut and thrust of real life to come? The games them selves are so designed, albeit unwittingly, to enable and enhance individual and group competition, and the survival of the fittest certainly occurs at all levels, sometimes cruelly so, but in recent years even this most basic of ideas has been sacrificed. The political activists have gained power, so now the notion non competition has arisen so that children might not feel the stigma of coming second, let alone coming last. So it is that even the oldest law of survival is temporarily brought to it’s knees, but at least outside of the school such a law still thrives. Look at kids playing football in the street, or in the local park; look at the pecking orders when any children play as a group, do we still not see the emergence of natural law.
That is far too sensible and natural for most educational and political authorities to see, let alone to accept, so it seems that, for the moment, political correctness and overprotection of children seems here to stay. So it seems life goes on, but we are still left with one nagging query. We can see that even by this time logic and commonsense have gone right out of the window, as well as the notion of decency, so why it is that if their schooling was so bad, we must do the whole thing over again? Never mind, we are told that, absurd though it seems, school is a great preparation for life, so reluctantly we keep on going hoping, against all reasonable hope, that things might actually get better.
Shame about puberty, shame about having a body raring to go but not able to use it, and shame that no one ever tells us what do when it occurs. Think about it carefully and you will see what I mean. If you are a guy its bad enough hair starts growing where there was none before, your voice fluctuates more than the stock market, and embarrassing, if reasonably discreet bits of your body start to swell at thoroughly awkward times. If you are a girl then it’s even worse as hair grows, breasts start popping up, and then you suddenly have periods. Horrid messy things and what are you told, quite simply, tough luck its all yours for up to thirty more years. The daft thing is that at such a time of tremendous change your ever-loving parents, and so-called responsible adults, often clam up and refuse to talk. Even worse is if they talk, as they describe reproductive methods and matters of physiology which seem quite absurd, then top it all off with a description of how a baby is conceived and then born.
It’s hard to believe the first part of the process, but when we are asked to believe, and visualise, a baby popping out of a woman’s vagina, with her legs are stuck up in the air and with everybody looking on; well dear Gods what kind of a fool do they take us for! From here up until late teens we might as well forget about a good time and logical commonsense, and just knuckle down in order to survive. We do not understand our parents, they will never understand us, and, in our view, they have forgotten what it is like to be young, if, of course they had ever been there at all. It really isn’t fair as for the first, not for the last time in life, natural law hits smack against man made law, and to put it quite bluntly, nothing makes sense. Our body demands a sexual release of tension, other bodies very close to us want to reciprocate with equal passion, so what are we told? It is illegal, you’re too young, just wait a bit longer, and follow our example. Ideally we would follow such advice, after all what could be more sensible than to follow the example of those who have gone before us? They have been there, done this, done that, they have the T-shirt to prove it; surely they must know what is going on?
If only that were true, but very quickly we realise, even as teenagers, that you have been duped, and that is where our troubles begin, for as soon we reach sexual maturity the curse of morality really kicks in. We are told that despite such education, natural strength, and strong compulsion, we must not follow such desires, despite the fact that all our age group are probably feeling just the same. It is physically and morally wrong, your elders tell you, you are urged to follow their lead, and they hold up their lives as an example of how things should be done but now, as adults, what is the result of such noble aspirations.
In a fairy tale world us adults would see fully informed, confident, relaxed and self-aware young adults, ready and waiting to enter adulthood with calm and confident anticipation. The remarkable thing is we do occasionally see this, but more often than not we see an angry, frustrated and confused youngsters, who blunder around awkwardly, desperately trying to understand and fit in with a confusing mess that, seemingly, swirls endlessly around them. This may sound harsh, but in a world where marriage, morality, and principled behaviour are shamelessly extolled, what does the teenager actually see?
Broken relationships, in and out of marriage, legalised addictive substance abuse, moral hypocrisy and contradiction, and all of these coming from an adult generation who, when asked why such a mess has been generated, cannot give a reason why. With such flawed and incoherent direction is it any wonder why teenagers can go so wrong, and is it any wonder that teenage S.T.I’s, pregnancy, aggression, are on the rise? In addition we see a rise in teenage uncertainty, depression, isolation, and substance abuse and addiction. We have fed and groomed their maturing bodies, we have enriched their overall environment, but we have failed to feed, understand, and converse with their minds; no wonder such painful and serious divergence has occurred.
Somehow though teenagers do survive and, stumbling over one another, they join those who have gone before. In doing so they become adults and move into the promised land of adulthood. What lies ahead over the years to come, well think of the bible, and think of a passage within that states, ” As ye shall sow so shall ye reap”. We have sown our seed and created a new generation of problem children, just as our parents and forefathers have done before us, now we must face up to what we have done, both in our sorrow and our joy. Do we have any hope for our lives to come? Oh yes, we still have our cognitive mind, and it still reigns supreme, and this is where we go to now. It’s a weird and wonderful thing is the mind, so let’s get going, we have an awful lot to explore.