Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Our First Baseball Practice

Last night I spent the evening with 18 young men on the baseball diamond. I'm helping coach my son's 13-14 yr. old Babe Ruth team. Last night was our first practice. A few reflections and observations:

Reflections: This thought kept reoccurring during our practice: "Wow, just think you used to move and throw like that with little or no effort. Now you come to practice with ice packs and ibuprofen set to pace yourself." Ah yes, grief and diminishment. Welcome to middle-age, forty is only a few months away.

Observation: There is an underlying rage in most of those boys. They're extreme in nature. In trying to understand this I turn to Michael Ventura's "Age of Endarkenment:"

"We tend to think of this extremism in the young as rela-
tively new, peculiar to our time. The history of the race
doesn't bear this out. Robert Bly and Michael Meade,
among others, teach that tribal people everywhere
greeted the onset of puberty, especially in males, with
elaborate and excruciating initiations — a practice that
plainly wouldn't have been necessary unless their young
were as extreme as ours. But, unlike us, tribal people
met the extremism of their young (and I'm using "ex-
tremism" as a catch-all word for the intense inner caco-
phony of adolescence) with an equal but focused and
instructive extremism from the adults.

"The tribal adults didn't run from this moment in their
children as we do; they celebrated it. They would as-
sault their adolescents with, quite literally, holy terror;
rituals that had been kept secret from the young till
that moment — a secrecy kept by threat of death, so
important was this "adolescent moment" to the ancients;
rituals that focused upon the young all the light and
darkness of their tribe's collective psyche, all its sense
of mystery, all its questions and all the stories told to
both harbor and answer those questions. Their 'meth-
odology,' if you like, deserves looking at, since these
societies lasted with fair stability for at least 50,000 years.

"The crucial word here is 'focus.' The adults had some-
thing to teach: stories, skills, magic, dances, visions,
rituals. In fact, if these things were not learned well
and completely, the tribe could not survive. But the
adults did not splatter this material all over the young
from the time of their birth, as we do. They focused
and were as selective as possible in what they told and
taught, and when. They waited until their children
reached the intensity of adolescence, and then they
used that very intensity's capacity for absorption, its
hunger, its need to act out, its craving for dark things,
dark knowledge, dark acts, all the qualities we fear
most in our kids - the ancients used these very
qualities as teaching tools.

"Through what the kids craved, they were given what
they needed. Kids of that age crave extremes of ex-
perience — they crave this suddenly and utterly, and
are possessed by their craving. They can't be talked out
of it or conditioned out of it. It's in our genetic coding,
if you like, to crave extremes at that age. (So they must
certainly feel rage if, as in our culture, adults tell them
that these cravings are wrong, disruptive, and/or don't
really exist — which New Agers do as surely as Vic-
torians.) At the same time, these kids need the cosmology
and skills apt for survival in their world. The kids can
create the extremes for themselves — they're quite good
at it; but not the cosmology, not the skills. And
without those elements, given at the proper time
through the dark-energy channels that have suddenly
opened in the young and go clear down to their souls,
the need for extremes is never really satisfied in its pur-
pose, and hence it goes on and on."--Micheal Ventura out of The Age of Endarkenment

We don't give them a working cosmology. Why? We don't have one.

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