A friend wrote recently, asking for advice on the utility of making an updated version of a classic "Coming of Age" story. His updated story would be aimed at making US youth aware of many key transitions looming, as they come of age in the decade from 2013 to 2023.
Such stories have a long history in western literature, known 1st as Germanic "Bildungsroman" and later in the USA as "coming of age" stories.
With no apology offered to Rudyard Kipling, maybe we should, in general, call them "Adapting to Context" stories? Their purpose will be to show how the characteristic methods utilized by the adapting person, group or entire culture were actually adjusted, to be adaptive to contexts that are not just changing, but which present constantly expanding degrees of freedom, exemplified by the Traveling Entrepreneur Task.
I think my friend hit the nail on the head. A nail we keep stubbing our toes on, then "fixing" by shooting ourselves in the injured foot.
Time for some cheap and productive prevention ... instead of such painfully expensive repair?
I think we need many such stories, each focused on the concept of adapting to context, but with new, context-appropriate twists added every generation or so. Especially for kids.
I've been wondering about the following for quite a while.
Today, individual humans are tasked with making at least 4 transitions during their lifetime.
An emergence transition, from recombination, through gestation to child (transcending birth).
Eventual transition from child to adult.
Eventual transition from adult to responsible family/clan/tribal/community-other member.
Eventual transition from tribal member to supra-tribal nation-citizen?
Eventual transition from nation-citizen to ... ?
Yet we have little or no folklore preparing kids to recognize that expanding roadmap - or even making all of them aware of it!!! No wonder incidence of frictions, stress & schizophrenia so often seem to peak at child/adult and other transitional inflection points in human development!
Every tribal culture I've read about has various "coming of age" ceremonies, of separate nature for the median male/female genders - or even for various guilds or disciplines. For tens of thousands of years of human social evolution, those transitions gradually became ever more formally acknowledged as a BIG DEAL. They formalize the transition from a childhood state to an adult state. A "virtual metamorphosis" of the sort that, e.g., insects do.
But what about transitions in social development? As an evolving social species, do we have ENOUGH and ADEQUATELY DYNAMIC folklore about enough of our accumulating AND EMERGING transitions? Even though tribal methods worked out very formal customs to ease the growth of individuals into their changing roles, few, if any, folk customs formally address the frictions of whole tribes making the transition into supra-tribal nation states, or the formal methods used to surmount those frictions. It's as though the ONLY thing tribal context never addressed was the possibility of supra-tribal populations colliding. Go figure.
Most tribes and other sub-groups are simply destroyed in the transition, and repeatedly lose most the ability to smoothly regenerate the tribal or sub-group launch phase. No one that I know of writes folk stories acknowledging and formalizing recent and emerging cultural transitions as a valuable, repeatable stage in continuous, group re-invention.
We don't keep ourselves abreast of the continuous transitions in our own, unending cultural embryology! Unending cultural embryology is evolution, folks!
To leverage all or our own, emerging transition phases, we have to learn to smoothly accelerate progression through them all. Why? So that our lifetimes include enough time for more of us to complete and extend our own group progressions!
Born by 9 months.
Child by 3 years.
Adult by (14 years?)
Citizen by 18 years?
Statesperson by 25 years.
And ... ?? by age 40?
Otherwise, too much experience is always wasted on the elderly, who are left in a desperate race to contribute more of their accumulated methods to cultural Knowledge Management. The transition from egg cells to adults to group agility to cultural evolution requires comfort with and practiced experience at expanding the concepts and methods from confined degeneracy to constantly expanding regeneracy.
Surely any embryologist looking at "social embryology" or "cultural embryology" would likely say that we're neglecting critical transition phases? Most embryologists would probably say that we suck at continuous development of our own further development!
This is relevant to Germany, where the personal Bildungsroman concept was most recently reinvented, since many Germans admit that they're one of the most tribal nations on Earth. Until very recently, they kept many school units intact until graduation events. One very useful consequence of that unit retention was individual retention of unit identity and a sense of place, until transfer to a broader unit, through expected and anticipated graduation steps.
Germany is one of the few nations who managed to keep some semblance of tribal identity longer than other, recently fused tribal groupings - though even they are an amalgamation of many tribes and dialects - some of them actually non-Germanic.
However, even what the German's did is now gone. Most kids in most nations today are adrift, not being given any honest advice on what context they're really in, where their context is actually going, or what their emerging individual and group options are.
This is INCREDIBLY unproductive!
You don't screw up critical phases in embryological gestation.
Similarly, we shouldn't neglect critical phases in child/adult transition.
We sure shouldn't ignore critical adult/tribal/national personal transitions.
And we sure as hell shouldn't ignore tribal/national cultural transitions!
Would we benefit from a rapidly growing, rapidly evolving and rapidly distributed fleet of new, OpenSource "Adapting to Context" stories, and a whole genre of expanding folklores? Surely we need stories that gracefully invite our increasing diversity of people and subgroups to help formally design our next stage of cultural embryology - so that we more consciously select the cultural transitions we make, and where they take us. That seems like a sensible step, to say the least. The alternatives seem destructive, rather than adaptive. Since we're gonna evolve, one way or another, we might as well be aware and cognizant of what we're doing? Ya think?
Given past precedent, maybe we ought to be paying very formal attention to our emerging transitions ... if we ever are to scale up to yet another level of supra-national organization.
Letting multi-national merchant corporations and cowboy financiers dictate the parameters of coming transitions seems totally random, at best. Not even our daily spectrum of online trivia makes a very attractive set of signals to sample. We desperately need a diverse set of summaries too, not just raw, cultural data to distract, divide and uselessly conquer our future generations with.