Adolescence

Adolescence is the time in the life cycle when the human body develops to sexual maturity coupled with emotional changes that prepare the individual for adulthood in a community.  Maturity is a relative matter. It depends on how well the individual has transited the passages of childhood and youth. Symbolic thinking comes with adolescence.  Among primal peoples, plants and animals [are used] to prepare the individual for the skills of metaphoric allusion to physical things in order to conceptualize abstractions Myths and spiritual and cosmological concepts are communicated by allusion to a familiar natural world.

Peer groups are unimportant in a band of twenty-four in which there may be seven or eight children of mixed ages.  And older children caring for younger children may have important ramifications that are not yet widely understood.  With primal people, there are no adolescent groups brought together for ceremonial initiation.  (Adolescent in-groups and secret societies occur in competitive and warlike cultures, not among hunter-gatherers.)  '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.  In age-specific gangs they are 'growing themselves up' the best way they know how, often in a milieu of violence and power rather than spiritual communion.

From Paul Shepard's Coming Home to the Pleistocene, 1998 (page 43-44)

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