Thursday, June 13, 2013

The Cult of the Kid

Recently I lamented the immature portrayal Chris Pine gave of Captain James T. Kirk. I suppose I should at least give him credit for acting like a 20-something instead of someone younger. And I'm probably an ebony pot making kettle-like references in some cases. Do I drink soda instead of coffee? Do I have comic books ("graphic novels") on my bookshelves as well as serious literature for grownups? Is my primary vacation destination Orlando and Disney World rather than some serious city with museums and culture? Guilty.

And yet I still want and prefer the life of the adult: responsibility, career, cleanliness, orderliness, sanity, serious conversations, aspiration, depth, personal growth, dependability, philosophy, taxpaying. Mind you, I stop short of some of the other things to which adults are supposed to aspire--marriage and children, for example--but I keep myself quietly domesticated and have made some efforts to restrain my urges toward the tacky, the immature, and the obnoxious. And yet...and yet...I find myself falling into the mindset crystallized so neatly by this XKCD comic:

Somewhere along the line, Americans gave up the notion that we were going to become like our parents, only better or smarter. The notion of building a life or improving on civilization seems hilarious if spoken of in the same breath as a GenXer. Maybe that's why actors in movies from before I was born seem so much older. They act more maturely, more restrained even in comedy. Consider the sly wit of Cary Grant to the oafish blathering of...what's his name again? Oh yeah: Adam Sandler. Comedy is now profanity, pushing the limits of acceptable taste. And what's acceptable has slid downhill quite a bit since my parents were young. Hollywood was actually funnier when they had censors because they pushed the limits without any word that would raise an eyebrow.

And, again, the goals of melodramas today circulate around hooking up or just getting a boyfriend/girlfriend. I purposely use the term "lady friend" because girlfriend seems a tad too young--for me and whoever I'm dating. I'm very quickly crowding up on my mid 40s. Shouldn't I be dating women, not girls?

But yet I work in an office where we all have Nerf guns at our desks. I have a Darth Vader cookie jar on my counter top. Do we really want a cult of perpetual childhood--or adolescence? I've worked in companies where a game must be played in a classroom full of adults in order to get people motivated to participate. If my bar conversation strays into some heavy topic--politics, metaphysics, cultural decay--I'm told that I need to "relax" or that I have too much time on my hands. Apparently some folks don't understand that this IS how I relax. The future is going to look pretty awful if no one wants to be the grownup in the room.

This isn't something I've picked up because I'm approaching 44 this year. I've always been this way. I never wanted to be a kid. Kids are young and stupid. Adults never let them do anything interesting, like have cool jobs or take vacations to cool places, or drive a car. Kids--sorry parents, it has to be said--can't change the world the way adults can. They don't know enough about how things work. They don't have the wisdom or education to form a corporation or invent feasible, complex technologies. You wouldn't put one in charge of a country, an airliner, a spacecraft, a nuclear power plant, or a serious weapon--at least not if you had a healthy sense of self-preservation. These are the things I strove to do because they seemed important. As a kid, all you learned were the basics (if your teacher was good enough and your peers allowed you to) or you learned how to deal with your peers--and when you're young, they're as ignorant as you are, so what are you really able to learn from them? Not a whole lot.

So allow a moment, if you will, to give thanks for the grownups of the world: the people who show up every day to raise children, build our civilization, protect it, and keep it functioning. Adults do these things so that eventually their children can grow up, learn, and take over where the parents left off. And maybe, if the young are paying attention and do learn to mature, they might make things a little bit better for their kids. But that improvement process doesn't happen if they, we, and I don't accept that we have to grow up eventually.

As St. Paul put it to the Greek Christians living in First Century Corinth, "When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me." (1 Cor. 13:11)

1 comment:

lin said...

The inflexibility of being set in one's ways is often mistaken for the certain wisdom of maturity, but don't let the kids in on the secret.