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The above scene is right off the street. But it could just as well be from a play. The body language is not hard to read. The guy is offering something, opportunity perhaps. The girl isn’t sure she wants that kind of opportunity, but she’s not repulsed, kind of interested maybe. Both are young, inexperienced. Feelings are stirring within, curious, interesting, provocative, enticingly delicious feelings. But they also know, from what their friends have told them, from what their parents and teachers have told them. They also know, there are dangers.
There always have been dangers. There always will be dangers. But, those dangers change with each new generation, within each different culture. Make the wrong choice in Pakistan or India today and you could lose your life. Same thing if you lived in 1950’s and 60’s America, before desegregation, before women’s lib, before the pill, before the sexual revolution. Today, in America, dangers are less about stigma and more about STDs, like HIV and chlamydia. Today, in America, the issues of date-rape, coercion, and consent are hot. When are feelings of desire, and wanting to be desired, safe to act upon? And when does acting upon those feelings become “stepping over the line” or potentially self-destructive? Fantasy porn, movies, video games, and talk radio, religious or otherwise, are not universally wise instructors regarding such things. Nor, is the counsel of one’s friends.
Wouldn’t it be nice if brain research and developmental science had something clearly useful to say on such topics? Instead, we have the law, religious proscriptions, philosophical antiquities, and best intentioned psychological opinion. What is blatantly clear is that as the body matures, changes occur. Physical characteristics evolve, perceptions and attention transform, and feelings we’ve never had before overwhelm us. We become something we never were before. It’s interesting, exciting, and sometimes distressing. We want to get a handle on this stuff. We want to understand it, see what it’s powers are, where it can take us. We want to control it. But we also kind of dig the ride. It’s thrillingly unpredictable. No, of course, we don’t want disaster. But this is “so so cool”.
The thing is, although biology seems to take total control of our lives at times, biology doesn’t work like a runaway machine. Biology has it’s preferred directions. But biology also takes account of, feeds on, and adapts to its environment. Environment molds and shapes its development. That’s where culture, parenting, teaching, friendship, and science come in, training the developing brain’s higher order executive function to throttle, modulate, and insightfully direct its more base, lower order, injudicious impulses. If only, if only such factors were universally wise, no young person would ever have to suffer those ever present dangers, as so many have, and continue to.
That’s not to suggest there must be one best right answer for raising children to be healthy responsible adults. There undoubtedly isn’t. Children are not rows of corn. And we wouldn’t want them all turning out exactly the same. Society needs a variety of talent to function. We just need to continue searching for ways to help each and every young person discover what they have to offer and how best they can fit into the direction things are taking within our societies, at least for a couple of productive decades or so. Beyond that, they need to learn how to learn and creatively adapt on their own, as well as to wisely parent the next generation.
May we all continue to improve on what we take to be wisdom where it comes to helping young people explore and transition to curious, discerning, productive, joyful, loving, caring adults, with less and less risk of enduring irreversible tragedy and pain as they explore those very interesting new feelings.
Sunday, September 1st, 2013
NIKON 1 V1
30 mm 81 mm