WE'RE STILL ADOLESCENTS

 

Copyright 1989,1997, 2015 by Jim Hull

(Please cite the author if you quote from this work)

 

It's as if humanity were in high school: maybe we'll crash our car and die, or maybe we'll graduate to adulthood. A person grows through three main stages: childhood, adolescence and adulthood. It's odd, but human society as a whole seems to be going through those stages, too. As kids we grow up under Mom and Dad's rules. We know what's expected of us, and in return we're taken care of. The way the family does things, well, that's the way things are done. It's simple.

But then we become teenagers, and whole new worlds open up to us. We learn about other beliefs and cultures. We discover our many talents, develop skills, wish we had a car, worry how we look to our friends. We get into heated arguments with our folks over how much leeway we can have. It's a confusing time. So many possibilities, so many paths to choose. We cling fiercely to our beliefs, then discard them for a different set and cling to those. And it's a dangerous time. We experiment with drugs, drive too fast, get into fights. Some teens don't make it: they crash and burn.

But most get to adulthood. Now they have some sense of who they are, what they want, how to get it. They take care of themselves. They learn to live and let live. They're grownups.

What? You don't know many adults who are really grown up? Neither do I.... Still, most of us resemble grown ups by the time we're in our twenties. This little drama of growth and development is being played out on a larger stage as well: Once upon a time people lived in small groups. They spoke alike, dressed alike, believed the same beliefs. They rarely met strangers, with their alien and confusing ways. It was a simpler time. The local ethos was like a parent: you obeyed the rules, and in return you got to belong and the group supported you.

But humanity grew in size and strength until now we are jammed together by the millions. Everyday we bump into people with different cultures and attitudes. We see other ways of life played out on our tv screens. Daily we develop new skills and abilities. We get into heated arguments over how much leeway to give each other. It's a confusing time. So many possibilities, so many paths to choose. Societies cling fiercely to beliefs, then discard them for a different set and cling to those. Whole countries are learning to live and let live. You don't believe me? Look at Europe: cradle of Western civilization, finally, maybe, it's getting its act together. They've formed the European Union. They've invited Eastern European nations to join them. They're investing in Russia.

You reply: sure, but look at Africa. Look at the Middle East. Look at just about anywhere, including the United States, because everywhere people are still being hurt by others who cling to rigid ways.

I agree. And I'll go one better: with jet travel and open borders, killer diseases and terrorists have unfettered access to places they couldn't reach before. Smokestacks in Ohio hurl acid clouds that etch away at forests in Eastern Canada. Refrigerants in Europe drill a hole in the ozone over Antarctica. This shiny new car we've got, the Technology 2000, maybe we'll get too crazy with it and drive ourselves over a cliff.

But most teens make it, and I'll bet this goofy, gangly adolescent human race will make it, too. Why? Because the very ability to think and argue about all this variety of belief and tradition can only be done by maturing minds. The fact that we're facing up to the challenges of pollution and tyranny and overpopulation means we're getting strong enough to handle whatever comes along. We're turning into adults, into people who can take care of themselves.

Grownups? Dead teens? We'll find out. Stay tuned.



 

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