Maturity: A Time Independent Frame Of Reference

As I watch the world around me I often ask myself a question; is what our country going through the worst altiore?  The next question I follow-up with is how would you go about comparing apples to apples?  How and what would you measure?  What is a good measurement of character?  Is not any measurement you take going to be relative – not absolute?  As I watch my adjacent (older and younger) generations – I begin to assemble an image of how we view the world.  Of course this does not speak for all in any generation, but it can not be refuted that the aggregate has changed.  A pier of mine may claim; “Certainly my elder generations did not have it as terrible as the current generations at a fixed age; for you never hear them complain about their hardships or their struggles when they were our age. We only hear them tell us how easy we have it.”  Our perception of today’s troubles are always inherently the worst ever – this is a human condition.  It is so because we are struggling through the present-time and a future that is unknown.  Again if you listen to my adjacent generation you can hear how bad it truely is – It is so hot, This traffic is going to make me so late for the game, My internet is so slow on my phone, I am super excited about going out tonight but it sucks – I do not have anything to wear, etc., etc. You will not get anyone’s attention without a definitive conjunction with every statement because then you are just boring! How can one reason with this?

A simple metric to measure character is to better understand maturity.  For that I turn to Collins’s Dictionary definition of mature:

ma*ture – 1. complete in natural growth or development, as plant and animal forms. …
                     5. completed, perfected, or elaborated in full by the mind.
 

The first sub-definition speaks to the body alone and the fifth sub-definition speaks to the mind.  Is the state of being mature, ie. ma*tu*ri*ty, inclusive to both the mind and body – or exclusive?  I would argue that with the current state of the human condition the body has matured – but has left the mind behind.  We are quick to give praise to how smart the emerging generations are and how far more advanced we are as a human race today as we in previous generations.  I would also state that there is an increasing amount of adult-children in society; insofar as men/women in adult bodies but with minds equivalent to child maturity. Are these fair statements or not?  Let us explore this paradigm with some thought provocation – come along…

Consider a fixed age of eighteen (18), the universal threshold in adulthood under the law.  If we were to use an Eulerian reference frame, fixed at age 18, to measure unique generations – what would we find?  What relationship between generations would exist in terms of a maturity measurement? Linear? Curve-linear? My argument is that it would be circular – harmonic with a generational period! Here is the substance of my argument. You tell me if it makes sense!

There has been extensive work done to understand the repetition in history.  One such work is the theory generated by historians William Strauss and Neil Howe, they published two books – Generations and The Fourth Turning.  Their theory revolves around the idea that human generational behavior is cyclical not the commonly presumed linear progression. A longer brief on this theory can be found in a 12 Jul post by The Art of Manliness.  The Strauss-Howe Generational Theory proposed that the revolutions occurred between 80-100 years apart; about the length of a long human life – something the ancients called a “saeculum“.  Within this cycle Strauss and Howe categorized four different archetypes(pattern): Prophet, Nomad, Hero, and Artist.  Each of these quarter cycles are approximately the time a human progresses from childhood to adulthood, 20-25 years and are divided respectfully into – childhood, young adulthood, midlife, and elderhood.

Within each saeculum there are also four historical turnings: High (First Turning), Awakening (Second Turning), Unraveling (Third Turning), and Crisis (Fourth Turning).  Each generation moves through the saeculum independently passing through each turning sequentially. So what drives the cycle? Culture? Technology? Economy? Governmental Power? The answer is yes – all the above.  I am convinced that human nature drives this cycle – the naive attempt to improve our inherently flawed nature only results in the collapse and rebirth of that attempt again and again.  Our search for Utopia.

Below is a historical summary of the most recent generations and their turnings:

Recent Generations –
Heroes – G.I. Generation (Born 1901-1924)
Artists – Silent Generation (Born 1925-1942)
Prophets – Baby Boom Generation (Born 1943-1960)
Nomads – Generation X (Born 1961-1981)
Next Heroes – Generation Y (Millennial) (Born 1982-2004)
Recent Turnings –
Crisis (Fourth Turning) – Great Depression/WWII (1925-1945)
High (First Turning) – Postwar Boom (1946-1960)
Awakening (Second Turning) – Consciousness Revolution (1961-1981)
Unraveling (Third Turning) – Reagan Revolution/Culture Wars (1982-2006)
Next Crisis (Fourth Turning) – ??? (2007 – ?)

My observations are that as the turnings occur – the generation that shares the same turning tend to embrace the previous same turning’s ideals.  Likewise, there is a tendency for the social norms and aspirations to progress from a rejection to then acceptance.  This can be seen with clothing, music, etc.  Things become “cool” again.  So the generational period of maturity is a saeculum?

Unfortunately I see a dark side to this transition into the “Next Crisis (Fourth Turning)”.  Government intervention and social engineering has retarded the natural reaction of human nature to embrace the G.I. Generations sense of maturity.  I fear that this intervention will not foster the kind of character building require to move us into the “Next High (2020-?)”.  Over the last saeculum we have exchanged too much freedom for security to allow the hardening of the human spirit to take hold.

I want to return to my argument about the relationship of maturity across different generations.  Has the circular cycle been broken by foreign influence? This foreign influence being the all-to-visible hand of the State.  I fear that mine and future generations will not react as they should to the crisis we are living today.  I want to be clear, the Straus-Howe Generational Theory is not the “cat’s meow” and it is not my intention for it to explain all the complex patterns that collect into what we call history.

All I know is that I agree with Winston Churchill when he said “The farther backwards you can look, the farther forward you can see”.  I can only imagine, in contexts, he was speaking about history being the vehicle on which to look backward? I take great reverence in History, both American and World; I do not embrace the Progressive notion to reget history altiore. By doing this, I believe we allow ourselves to forget the self-evident truths that are unique to us as humans.

Another indication of the repetition of human accendency is the inscription over the entrance to the temple in Athens, Greece expounding that “All human things are a circle”.  I am again inclined to believe this because history tells us Greece was once the supreme society of the world and now we see what modern Greece has become – a bastion of human under-utilization.  My question to you – Is the greatest country ever erected going to embrace its destiny as the eternal bastion of human potential or realize its fate as another relic left for other to learn from because we lacked the mature conviction to stand firm to the pillars of human nature? Shall we act cowardly? Shall we act worthy?

– MLP

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