6 Apr 2009

Becoming of Age: Shepard, Coming Home to the Pleistocene, Ch.3, subsection 5

Paul Shepard

Coming Home to the Pleistocene

Chapter III: How We Once Lived

Subsection 5

Becoming of Age

The adolescent body sexually matures while emotional changes prepare the individual for adult community life. Human neoteny slows down some aspects of our body's and personality's development. This causes immature traits to remain with us throughout the rest of our lives.

The adolescent discovers the symbol.
Symbolic thinking comes with adolescence. Among primal peoples, plants and animals prepare the individual for the skills of metaphoric allusion to physical things in order to conceptualize abstractions. Totemism strictly speaking, is the social role of the individual by analogy to a natural series. Myths and spiritual and cosmological concepts are communicated by allusion to a familiar natural world. (44a-b)
Adolescent peer groups can be unnatural.
"Hanging out" together of age-stratified youths may be one of the most destructive characteristics of our present culture. Without a childhood that has grounded them in the natural world, often without adults anticipating and properly monitoring and celebrating their transition into adulthood and understanding their idealism and need for spiritual experiences, youth often find themselves alone in this modern world. (44bc)
Sometimes adolescents must grow themselves up in gangs, surrounding them "in a milieu of violence and power rather than in spiritual communion." (44c)

In our modern societies, adolescents might suffer from loneliness and lack of true communication. But tribal societies tend not to have anxieties about self-identity. Anthropologists think this is because they have group identity and hence little problems with self-consciousness. Others think the problem is our failure to identify with nature. But adolescence is a time when the individual sharpens the distinctions between self and other so to clarify one's own identity. However, the danger is that the self becomes isolated. Pleistocene humans solved this problem by keeping the individualizing self within a network of interdependent social relations.

Shepard, Paul. Coming Home to the Pleistocene. Washington, D.C.: Island Press, 1998.

No comments:

Post a Comment