Thursday, October 17, 2013

Arrested Development

Yes, that TV series was kind of funny, but that’s not what this is about. In fact, the title is deceptive because I’m looking for another term that I don’t know yet, that perhaps doesn’t exist. But first a word about the known term.

There’s a fairy tale called Faithful John about a servant who is turned to stone. He remains so for most of the story until he’s released into a fluid, flowing human being again. The brilliant Jungian analyst, Maria Louise Von –Franz, talked about the metaphor of being turned to stone, the psychological phenomena of arrested development where part of the human psyche shuts down, gets stuck, is locked away or hardened so it can’t grow any more. Not only is such stunted growth sad for the individual, but it can be dangerous to the culture when a toddler or teenage mentality becomes dominant in adulthood. Witness the Republicans who lost the game and are taking their ball away like pouting sore losers, or the frat boy styles of the various good-ole-boys political scenes. So walking around in grown-up bodies are various people throwing toddler temper tantrums or pulling teenage pranks and it’s not a happy scene.

But that’s not what this blog is about. Today I taught the 3-year olds for the first time this year and no one has invented a heaven more heavenly than that hour spent with these remarkable beings. I’ve long announced that my two favorite ages to teach are the 3-year olds and 8th graders (for markedly different reasons) and today reminded me why. This year at school, my colleague James is teaching them and today I subbed—hence, this re-awakened sense of why I love them so much. There’s something about the 3-year old mind that hits me where I live. I could analyze it, but why bother? It just is! The quality of their humor, their curiosity, their infectious excitement, their quirky perceptions, their love affair with rhythm, movement, chant and song.

So what is the term for naming the age that is at your core? Not that I’m stuck in the 3-year old mind and body— I think I’ve done a reasonably good job keeping the growth toward a mature adult alive and flowing. It's more about defining the age or ages that manifest a quality of being you admire and value. Really “ages”— I also loved the 22- year old embarking on the adult journey and was quite happy with the 30 plus-year old raising a family. And in every way except all the associations with the number and the math of mortality, also quite content with the 60 plus-year old starting his first jazz band and still able to ride my bike up the Third Avenue hill.

But those 3-year olds today just stole my heart, melted any trace of the frozen parts, turned all the stones of my psyche into water and now I have to plot how to steal them back from my colleague so that I can teach them every week. Maybe here’s where my teenage prank mentality might be of service!

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