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Rite and Wrong: On Rituals, Society, and Teen Depression

The Anxiety, worry, and doomer mentality prevalent among today’s youth stems from a feeling of imbalance and lack of “ground beneath our feet”.


We’re not really sure of our place in this world.


Young adults - Gen Z - probably the entire internet generation as a whole - are just unsure of our social roles.


The human race is reliant upon the Earth - but we also destroy it.


Men - half the population of society - but apparently our inherent “toxic masculinity” is tearing the world apart.


And young women are told to feel empowers, capable of anything, and to transcend the past conception of being mere sex objects for men to gawk at - yet their favorite influencers and celebrities are millionaires off posting ass pics on Onlyfans.


Now, these topics are a different discussion - but the song remains the same; Today’s Youth are Confused.


Confused as fuck.

Think about it like this.

A house without a foundation is doomed to fall. Any wind or storm can knock it over.

Society is a house.


And as explained by Joseph Campbell phrasing Radcliffe-Brown, “A society depends for its existence on the prescence in the minds of its members of a certain system of sentiments by which the conduct of the individual is regulated in conformity to the needs of the society”(Primitive Mythology, Joseph Campbell).


Okay - in English - basically Radcliffe Brown is saying that an individual’s actions are downstream of the social roles society requires to be fulfilled.


For example - a male in a hunter-gatherer society will act in accordance with the needs of that society, ie - hunting animals, protecting the camp, etc.


Thus - social actions are downstream of what society tells its members it needs.


And right now - society is really fucked.


We don’t have too strong of a sense of need.


When everything is given to us - what meaning do any of our lives have? What meaningful contributions can we make?


Remember this point - we’re coming back to it in and Joseph Campbell in a second.

Today’s youth are confused.


They aren’t sure of themselves physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually, socially, anything that ends in a -ly.


There’s no ground to stand upon and stake your claim in.


One question I’ve been asking myself, groundless, is “When do I become an adult?”

I’m 20.


But I don’t feel like an adult.


I still rely on Mommy and Daddy’s bank account.

I’m a student, too, so I’m basically the University’s bitch.


I just kinda feel like a slightly older teen - save some of the existential dread and Nirvana posters.


And I’m not the only one who feels this way.


Nearly every 20-something year old I talk to has some sort of Imposter-Syndrome like thing going on where they just don’t really feel adult-ish.


And I don’t think society has figured out this critical transition from childhood to adulthood.


The lack of meaningful rituals - separating youth and adulthood and serving as a distinct bridge between the two is lacking in society.


We don’t have any widely-accepted physical or psychological event that one can go through and say “Okay, I’m an adult now”.


Okay - let’s back up a sec.


Why are rituals important?

Why the hell mention ritual?

Is this some cult or some shit?

Someone call back Joseph Campbell we’re boutta go deep.


A defined ritual in which the child graduated from youth gives them an opportunity for their ego - or sense of self -to change, expand, take on new social roles, experience new things, etc.

Rituals function as a bridge between the life of a child and the life of the-one-child-now-adult.


Joseph Campbell notes the rituals of the Central Australian Aranda people - paraphrasing him;


Young boys are tossed into the air by men of the illage while the women dance and shout, encircling the boys. The commotion, loud sound, and exhilaration of this event provide a second-birth-like quality to this ritual. After this ritual - boys officially become men in the society and are finally allowed to go on hunts and provide meat to the Tribe.


This marks a massive change in their identity, social roles, contributions to society, and ultimately, the meaning they make for their lives.


That last one is really important.


After the child is tossed into the air - their ego - their sense of self changes, expands, and becomes connected to the vast sky they’re tossed into.


It is a second birth of sorts - the expansion of the human entering a new stage of adulthood.

And once they are reborn, they can never go back to being mere children.


This ritual provides a distinct shift in someone’s social responsibilities, the story they tell themselves, and the understanding of who they are and can be.

They have ground under their feet.

So tell me, where is that ritual in today’s society?


Graduating High School?


really? high school?


A high school degree is practically as useful as decaf coffee.


A diploma is basically worthless in today’s economy.


The American Dream used to be the ability to graduate high school, find a decent job like an automotive worker, make a living wage, and maybe one day get a house with a white picket fence.


Is that possible in today’s day and age?


HELL MF NO!


A high school degree grants no major shift in identity or sense of self.


It doesn’t make you feel like an adult.


Doesn’t make you capable of incredible economic flourishing to buy a nice house with decent property value, or give you the ability to provide for a family, or contribute to society.


Now - I’m not saying people who have high school degrees are worthless.


In fact - some of my best friends have high school degrees and chose not to go to college.

And I still think High School is valuable - but let’s face it, that diploma isn’t getting you anywhere.


It’s the person holding the diploma - their hardworking nature or sheer talent or whatever that’s bringing in cash.


Back to rituals.


Much of what society deems worthy and valuable is determined by how much we pay for it.

How much do we pay High School Grads?


Minimum Wage? 7.25 an hour?

yeah - not exactly deemed very valuable by society.


So graduating high school doesn’t lead to that distinct shift in social responsibilites and meaningful contribution - cool - what about college?

COLLEGE??

COLLEGE?????

Think about this;

College is basically a 4-year vacation for 18-22 year olds to drink, smoke, party, and occasionally attend class. Did I mention there's no supervision, they're all horny as fuck, and have practically 0 responsibilities?


yeah.


Not only will college put you in debt - but schools and society offer very little assistance to help you find your footing.


You go in and you're on your own.


That’s the American way, bucko.

I was lucky to have met some good people and have a relatively independent nature.

I did pretty well to adjust.

However, most students fall into a vicious cycle of sleeping at 3 am, skipping morning classes, barely eating all day, surviving on Panera Bread Charged Lemonades(look this shit up), drinking 3-5 nights a week, smoking weed at 3 pm, and repeating it the next day.


I’ve met dozens of students who don’t take showers daily.


Dozens of dozens wear their underwear inside out because they’re too lazy to do the laundry.


College is not the time for children to transition into adults, contribute to society, adopt new social roles, and become grounded.


Quite the opposite perhaps.


And don’t even get me started on the fact that a Bachelor’s degree is starting to become the new High School Diploma - hundreds of thousands of recent grads having to take lower-paying jobs due to the “overeducation” of the country.

Now - this isn’t a rant on the education system, that’s for another time.

This is about the lacking of meaningful rituals that provide a distinct bridge between youth and adulthood.


This lack of definition leads to today’s youth not really knowing when and how to feel like functioning, productive, contributing members of society.


There’s no story to tell yourself about what you’re doing.


No concrete meaning of your life to make.

Nothing.

It’s all just a shot in the dark.


Now - I’m an Existentialist - so I believe we make our own meaning for our lives.

However, it sure as hell doesn’t help to just be told “make your own meaning”.

That shit is HARD.

It’s TOUGH AS FUCK.


And I’m not saying humans should have defined social roles.


I’m not saying men need to act like X and women like Y.

And I’m not definitely not saying we should hearken back to the past and resort to hunter-gatherer life in little communes.


No, no no.


I do like this post-modern constructivist-like world in which we construct our own lives and the individual is relatively free to think, act, and do as they life.


However - it comes at a cost.


And those who don’t take responsibility to create meaning for their life lag behind.

Those who don’t take it upon them to MAKE THEIR OWN distinction from childhood to adulthood suffer.


I had to consciously make that decision to grow the fuck up - but if you don’t make that, then who makes it for you?


hmmm.

thanks for reading.

let’s have some rituals :)

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