Coming of age

There is no greater initiation in life than life itself.
And there is no period of life, when this happens in a more characteristic way than the period of adolescence (which is usually placed between the 13th and 19th year of age).
This is the point, where kids are transformed from boys and girls, into men and women.
Once again, societies of this world seem unable to follow and show the proper attention, to this transitive period.
They face it as a “pimple” (and I don’t deny to accept this) that we quickly have to get rid of it (and I totally deny to accept this) leaving a sigh of relief, when it’s all over.
Also, characteristic is the embarrassment of most parents who act as if they are at a loss. I have many times quarreled with friends of mine that happen to be parents, because it’s impossible for them to answer to my one and only judgment-question: “Did you totally choose to black it out, about what we pulled when we were young?”
Growing, some people, still act like little children towards their kids. Little children however, that are not going to meet any adolescence anymore, in their dry and boring life.
I would like to be wrong, in all of my remarks above, but there is always a point in a course (any course) where everything is decided in one moment, and one outcome.
And for the course of adolescence, this crossing of time and place, comes with adulthood.

Ladies and gentlemen, adulthood is not achieved with a nice celebration along with some friends who will say fat words around a fat table.
Neither comes with the right of voting and the keys of a car (if you’re lucky lad!).
And the pat of encouragement on the shoulder for having your “legitimate” birthday, seems like a push (pardon me the language) into the pile of shit that lies ahead!

But let’s see what coming of age could really mean.
Even if we have to use our imagination.

On the planet Vulcan home planet of Mr. Spock (where logic prevails above stupidity and irrationality) every teenager with no exception has to walk for days through a desert, where infinite fatal dangers lie ahead.
Walking through it, they will prove that they have really come of age.
For this trial, they are prepared and trained through their whole adolescence, since if you are not ready, you can never make it.
On this trial, any external assistance is forbidden, and each one walks this course for himself.
But those who will come through will be rightfully considered adults and from there on are treated with the proper respect, which they earned anyway.
Let’s go back to Earth!

Coming of age, the end of adolescence, puts man in his own personal orbit. And if you take a close look around you, you’ll see that a man is more or less “the weight he was burdened” in his childhood plus (or minus) what he decided to choose when he was a teenager.
Yes, it would be a good idea to send our children to Spock’s planet, and yes, even with the risk of their lives.
Because it’s a risk worthy of taking, in contrary of the stupid and dangerous teenage risks, which come exactly by the lack of a “desert course” the lack of a “trial” that never awaits them.
And that’s why, through an irrational wisdom, the youths are taking risks with everything that comes in their way, excesses, drugs and every kind of extremism.

Every time when a teenager is passing the threshold of my dojo, regardless of gender, I look at them like an other adopted father from planet Vulcan with a… shinning eye!
It’s my pleasure to prepare them for my desert, the desert called Aikido. And when the time comes and they are ready, I take them as deep and as far as there can be, and then abandon them, so they will have to find their way out.
And take my word for it, many of my “children” never made it back.
But those who did are champions of life, winners of themselves, true adults (not to mention trained Martial Artists as well!).

When someone comes of age, adults have to acknowledge this. This is the most difficult part for most of them, parents, guardians, teachers, instructors…because from now on, they should treat them as equal, by changing their behavior and attitude.
And the gift-symbol, for this circumstance, should most of all reflect the tally you pass forward.

On Vulcan, with the rough land and the hot deserts, one wonders what that gift could be.
But what else, if not a surviving knife!

(Dedicated to Setu)

June 27, 2006