Join LifeLube for a live podcast community forum - Generation You - exploring the age barriers we must overcome and the generation gaps we should bridge - this coming Wednesday, May 20. Featuring the Feast of Fun and fabulous panelists - and YOU.
Gay Adults! Gay Adults! Where Are You?
Trusting the River Of Life
By Don Kilhefner
This article was published in the Summer, 2006 issue of White Crane Journal.
ADULTHOOD IS ARCHETYPALRead the whole thing here.
Carl Jung first coined the term "archetypal." He used it to mean intrinsic images and patterns of behavior that are found everywhere in our species—hero, warrior, wise old man, healer, trickster. In other words, for something to be archetypal it must be found in all periods of history and in virtually every culture. Cultural anthropologists tell us that whenever and wherever humans are found there seems to be a patterning of life into four stages called youth, adult, elder, and ancestor. Moreover, each of these stages have significant social roles to play in the village. There is a profound and fundamental interdependence between these stages and societal roles upon which the health and vitality of the village or tribe are largely based. For the sake of simplicity, one might say ancestors look out for our welfare and protection in this lifetime both on an individual and tribal level. They carry a vast and rich storehouse of knowledge which shamans, dream-workers, and vision seekers in the tribe can access directly if necessity arises.
Elders are responsible for the spiritual well-being of the village (Jung called them spiritual fathers and mothers). They facilitate the transmission of a certain type of spiritual information, knowledge and wisdom from one generation to the next. Elders think about themselves, about conditions in the village, and about seven generations yet to come. They carry external authority, internal authority and, due to close proximity, ancestor authority. You cannot have an alive and healthy community unless there are elders consciously doing eldering. Unfortunately in the gay community today men simply become "olders" not "elders." Generally they retire, disappear, or are discarded just when they are most needed and most valuable to those coming after them.
Adults are responsible for the material well-being of the village. Largely they provide for the economic vitality and physical survival of the community. Adults raise the young, protect the community, make sure certain ceremonies are performed, initiate young men in manhood (adulthood), and pass onto youth practical information and lived knowledge. Adults care about themselves and about something larger than themselves—the state of the community or tribe. From a vantage point of 40 consecutive years of frontline work in the gay community, I suggest that it is the gay adult that is now largely missing from the community picture (along with conscious gay elders) and his absence is having serious, negative consequences to our communal and spiritual evolution as a people. In the late 19th century before the young Vivekananda and the other young men showed up at the Kali temple in Calcutta, Ramakrishna would go up on the temple roof and shout "Boys! Boys! Where are you?" in all directions. Eventually they showed up. Sometimes in anger and frustration, I want to climb up on the roof of the local White Party and shout into the four directions: "Gay adults! Gay adults! Where are you?"
Youth symbolizes the future of the tribe and any healthy community will treat the ripening of its young people with the utmost seriousness, and attention, in the process showing respect towards the future and, particularly, to those who went before (ancestors). In youth the central organizing principles are having fun, adventure and screwing up, learning about the opening of the heart and sex, and seeding creative imagination and exciting possibilities for the future. In our culture youth is self-absorbed, thinking largely only about himself. On a 21-year old this youthful narcissism seems
age-appropriate and even charming if one does not need to be around it too much. On a 41 year old it looks grotesque. Without the presence of conscious, functioning adults in the community, a self-absorbed youth can easily become a "lost boy"—lost in paint ball, video games, and cyber/cell phones; lost in Madonna groupie-hood; lost in the phrase "whatever." The gay community is filled with them of every age. Bereft of adult support and encouragement to grow up and detached from ordinary reality, these "lost boys" find it nearly impossible to activate and fulfill their promise in the world and their gifts are often wasted.
And we hope you will join us May 20 for Generation You.