I want to have a Rite of Passage, Too! Where’s my Rite of Passage?!?

There are a variety of people I’m quite afraid of sounding like when I write. 

One of those stereotypes is the right-wing type; the “White straight men are so opressed” stereotype; the “through reverse discrimination, people in the majority actually have it more difficult than everybody else” stereotype.

In many ways I am so very lucky by most of my demographic details.  My life would have been much more complicated if I’d been born a woman, born an ethnic minority, born gay, etc. 

Having made that disclaimer, I’d like to cruise on to the thing that is on my mind tonight.  That thing is this:

We do a good job of recognizing and discussing the challenges and hardships associated with a variety of groups.   We don’t do as well in recognizing the hardships associated with other groups.

More specifically: we do a really amazing job of recognizing the rites of passage that adolescents go through.  We might not say anything very wise, helpful, or interesting in formats like films.  But at least movies like American Pie, The Breakfast Club, and countless others recognizing that those passages exist.

Yesterday, my kids were watching the Steve Martin remake of Cheaper by the Dozen.  It got me to thinking about many of the movies that Martin made in the decade before.  It’s easy to write off movies like Father of the Bride, L.A. Story, Parenthood etc., as chick flicks.  (Sorry, I know how sexist the term is… but it’s just such a perfect term.)

For my money, it’s a mistake to write them off that way.  I’d go so far as to argue that Steve Martin has done more for family values than Newt Gingrich ever will.  (Obviously, at least as much credit ought to go to the writers who created those works.  But I think ol’ Stevie wrote at least some of them.)

These are real explorations in what it is to be a real grown up.  They are goofy and silly sometimes.  But there is something real and legitimate going on underneath them.  One of those real things is the idea that it’s hard, almost heroic, just to be a good person and to do the right thing, day-in and day out.

And then I saw Rocky Balboa tonight.  Holy cow!  What a great movie!  The wierd thing, is I think boxing is kind-of dumb.  And I didn’t particularly love the other Rocky movies.  In fact, even the latest could have scrunched the whole boxing thing down to like two minutes and I would have enjoyed it just as much.

That movie sent a counter cultural message.  I’d never even noticed the message before it was countering before.  But it seems like maybe we’re told a pretty horrible thing, in this society:

Once you hit your adult years, it’s time to stop.  Just stop.  Stop becoming and growing.  Your future was not fixed once.  Your nature was mallable once.  But all that unknown is in the past.  Now it’s time to settle in to the same course you’ve been aiming at.  It’s time to stop writing your script and start following somebody else’s. 

I can’t bring myself to call it middle-aged.  I’ll settle for the euphanism post-young adult, or pya for short.  I suppose the tension of pya is that people come to depend on us.  Whatever we risks we take are now shared by others.  It’s one thing for me to jeapordize my own sense of security as an adolescent.  It’s a whole ‘nother thing to risk others.

I don’t know if I’m contradicting myself, or writing in circles, or just developing the same, consistent thought.  I guess the thing I’m trying to say is that either way is an act of heroism; either submitting your desires for family or risking everything for family. 

It seems like we so often potray both instead as an act of cowardice.  Either we’ve sold our souls to the man or we’ve recklessly embarked on a midlife crisis…


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The stories that speak to our soul begin at a home where things are good. Cinderella is happy with her father. The three little pigs have grown up and are ready to move on. Bilbo Baggins knows his shire. Adam and Eve walk with God in the garden. My story isn’t much different. There was a time and a place where it was so good. There was a community for me. And there was joy. We were filled with a sincere desire to do what God wanted us to do. We possessed explanations and understandings that went a certain distance. We offered security and tradition and laughter. For a lot of years, that was enough. I have this sense that it was also necessary. I have this surety, now, that it certainly wasn’t everything. There were some things that became increasingly problematic as time went by. There was a desire to package things up so very neatly. Sunday morning services were efficient and strategic. Responses to differences of opinion were premeditated. Formula began to feel more important than being real. A real desire for everybody to be one of us, but also a real sense that there is an us, and there is a them. They carried a regret that it has to be this way, but deeper than this regret was a surety that this is how it is. I began to recognize that there was a cost of admission to that group. There were people who sat at the door, collecting it. Those people wished they didn’t have to. But I guess they felt like they did have to. They let some people in, and they left others out. There was a provisional membership. My friends did possess a desire to accommodate people that are different… But it would be best for everyone concerned if they were only a little bit different. I did make many steps forward in this place. Before I went there, there were lies that I believed. Some of the things that I learned there, I still hold on to. But that place is not my home anymore. Those people are not my community anymore. There were times it was hard. I am engaged in a different community now. And I am working hard at finding a place in many different places now, embracing many different kind of families. I don’t always get it right. I am trying and I am learning and I am moving foreward. I have this sense that I am not alone in these experiences. I believe that we are tribe and we are growing. We are pilgrims, looking for a new holy land. Perhaps we won’t settle on the same spot of land. But if you’ve read this far, I am thinking that we are probably headed in the same general direction. I have begun this blog to talk about where my journey is taking me. In every space, we find people who help us along. And maybe we can get to know each other, here. We embrace ideas that provide a structure for the things we believe, and perhaps we can share these too. Maybe we can form a group, a tribe, a community, if we can figure out a way to work through the shadow of these kinds of groups, if we can bigger than the us-and-them ideas that have caused so much trouble in the past. As important as they are, I think the very nature of online interactions will lend itself to something equally powerful. I am stumbling onto these practices that my grandfathers and great grandfathers in the faith engaged in. I am learning about these attitudes and intuitions are so different than the kinds of things we call doctrine today. I don’t know about you, but I am running out of patience, and even interest, in conversations about doctrine. I hope that maybe you’ll share a little something about where your journey is taking you, and maybe our common joys and challenges might help each other along, and we might lift each other up. Thanks for doing this journey with me.

2 thoughts on “I want to have a Rite of Passage, Too! Where’s my Rite of Passage?!?”

  1. Why you got to hate on Newt?

    i believe we look at the proclivities of the middle-age man in particular as pecadillos because of the apparent self-centeredness of their actions. These pursuits of revamped dreams are often accompanied by new wives or gratuitously expensive automobiles.

    Being middle-aged myself (aaaaaargh!) i can assure you that much of my own crises are due to a sense of unmet potential. You know, the realization that “if i only knew then what i know now” syndrome. So i get the instinct to “start over” or take a mulligan.

    It’s a time frought with fear and ego. Our culture is bombarding us with images of successful and “happy” people who’ve achieved their dreams. 5th Ave. and Hollywood are selling us a lifestyle with which many men are not satisfied to live vicariously; unlike a woman might be (sorry for the sexism, but women are just wired differently). And women are getting sucked in too against their nature to trade in their “desparate” lives for more fulfilling ones.

    i know i’m making some sweeping generalizations. Please consider that i’m speaking as an anecdotal expert with above average observational skills. i’m not trying to undue your downplay of mid-life temptations. You could be right to assess them as unfairly targeted by oppressive societal expectations. i only wish to caution against justifying the right to choose at the expense of doing what’s right.


  2. I think that’s all true:
    but it also feels like a bit of a set-up. It’s almost like any change you make is a surrogate for what you really want to do; and what you really want to do is leave your family and get a sports car. I’m probably being goofily defensive or something here, because all I can cite is feelings not arguments.


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