Humans are curious creatures. We organize our perceptions of the world through stories to explain mysteries and help us feel safe and secure. Story making comes from our natural inclination to have an internal dialogue with ourselves that narrate our experiences in the world. We creatively imagine our selves in relationships in ways that provide meaning and make distinctions between the sacred and the profane. Just because we create a story to help us understand and explain a mystery doesn’t mean we get it right. When we get the story wrong at the level of public policy for social justice, economics and the environment it can be devastating for us as a species, the rest of our planet and all of our relations. This is especially true for the story we make up about our children’s development and their education. These stories are told to our children in the form of scientific theories that are enacted in evidence-based programs.
Science has placed a wedge in between the worlds of the sacred and profane. We are the first to experience a completely profane world, (Sharpe 1984)i. It is the direct experience of the sacred that makes us human beings. In the absence of the sacred we become beings exalted by the power of exploitation and dominance, moving farther away from actualizing our real potential to experience the supreme joy and harmony contained within a sacred reality. Rituals nurture a sacred reality, (Blumenkrantz 1996)ii.
"Myth is the secret opening through which the inexhaustible energies of the cosmos pour into human manifestation."
A ritual is a re-enactment of a myth. It features characters with super-ordinary qualities whose origins are birthed from the divine at the beginning of time and conveys moral and ethical values that serve survival. Scientific theories are a modern form of myth and their rituals are the programs generated from these underlying stories, (Sharpe 1984). Scientific theories must have proper citations that pinpoint their human origin. The characters within these myths, wrapped in the jargon of the disciplines ("atoms, protons, super ego, defense mechanisms, viruses, E=MC2") were not given super-ordinary qualities and did not convey any moral values. Rituals enlist allies of spirit while programs enlist allies of science. A new story is needed that enlists both spirit and science into new forms that build bridges between the sacred and secular worlds.
Transition Story For These Turning Times
Puberty is a time of great transition and potential in our personal story making. Children begin to wonder about the mysteries of the Universe and their place in the world. Their internal narrative becomes more robust and their creative imagination is energized with thoughts of increased possibilities. External influences fuel our children’s creative imagination and inform their internal narrative which in turn formulate their personal values and view of the world. We live in an interconnected global community where images and messages from around the world bombard our senses. Public and private education environments convey another kind of message about what is important. Raising test scores is touted above raising children in educational environments generating climates that compromise our children’s sense of safety and belonging.
We need a unifying story that conveys values and exemplifies behaviors more favorable to strengthening climates of civility, respect and civic engagement in our families, schools and communities and in a form that includes earth and all our relations. For thousands of years rites of passage were the way we transmitted values and ethics to the next generation. Rites of passage can once again be a unifying story. They provide the common language for a community’s institutions and agencies to be in relationship with citizens. Children could be initiated in ways that strengthen their own cultural identity and affirm their connection to community, nature and all things. They would convey values for community adaptations that support cooperation, attunement with culture, ancestors and place, and consider Earth as a sentient being and an interdependent destiny between all our relations.
Individual and community rituals tap into private and collective unconscious energies that support personal health, community cohesion and the well-being of the earth and all our relations (Somé 1993). Rituals offer a powerful resource that when integrated with contemporary science provide a synergy that could produce more effective design strategies for youth and community development, especially through rites of passage.
Youth & community development through rites of passage offers a language within design principles for this new story. It reflects reciprocity between the community, the individual and all their relations. The twenty design principles serve as navigational aids to inform and organize new ways of thinking. Within each setting a new unique story emerges that guides individuals and their community to develop their own initiation and rites of passage practices. They incorporate individual and community resources, cultural symbols and practices and embrace the spirit of their place. This new story becomes their story. There are powerful distinctions between adopting someone else’s story, like those told as “evidence-based,” and remembering one’s own story.
Rite of passage stories can weave together elements of the sacred in secular forms that convey values and ethics essential to the survival of the Earth, all our relations and ourselves. Children are a product of their thoughts and dreams. What they hear and see they remember and become. The stories our children hear today will fuel their dreams for tomorrow. Children are our dreams for the future. How we raise our children will determine the future.
i Sharpe, Kevin. From science to an adequate mythology. Auckland, NZ: Interface Press, 1984.
ii Blumenkrantz, D.G. The rite way: Guiding youth to adulthood and the problem of communitas. UMI Dissertation Services, Ann Arbor, MI. (1996).
ii Somé, Malidoma Patrice. Ritual: power, healing and community. Portland, OR: Swan Raven & Company, 1993.
The above is excerpted: “And, How Are the Children? Rites of Passage and the Future of All My Relations,” (Spring 2014). Originally published in 1996 it details the relationship between initiation/rites of passage and the psychological sense of community.
© David Blumenkrantz, 2014. No permission is granted to copy, extract language or design principles, without appropriate reference and citation.
It’t time for a Paradigm Shift – a fundamental change in beliefs, theory and approach – in developing community-centered responses to the challenges faced by today’s Youth & Community. More here>>