When a tribal fifteen-year-old is initiated he gains adult status, but you have to keep in mind that he is not psychically transformed into an adult by this. He is officially a man, but he’s not the man he’s going to become when he’s thirty or fifty. The system works because everyone in the tribe now knows that this boy is officially and permanently a man and accord to him all adult rights, privileges, and expectations.
For you to go through such a process will not psychically transform you any more than it does the tribal fifteen-year old, but it will NOT affect your status in OUR culture; although you’re past 21 (and therefore officially an adult), no one automatically accords to you all adult rights and privileges or expects you to BE an adult. That’s just not a fact you can change.
So, going through some OTHER culture’s adult-making process may be fun but it won’t do the trick you particularly want it to do. But in truth it doesn’t do that trick for the tribal fifteen-year-old either.
The tribal fifteen-year-old is not the man he’s going to become in ten years or twenty years or thirty years. Nothing can accomplish that for you but living through those years. There are no shortcuts to maturity, no magic rituals that will enable you to become what you’re going to become ahead of time.
As to whether there is “any merit in a 21st century digital white man wandering off alone into the vast open plains, eating nothing until he collapses into a hunger-induced hallucination that may or may not contain for him a guiding force to be present for the rest of his life,” I’m certainly not going to say that it couldn’t happen (and I don’t think being “a 21st century digital white man” has anything to do with it one way or the other).
posted: 01 Mar 2002
updated: 01 Apr 2002
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