Rites of Passage

Melinda’s Religion class this year at Cathedral is World Religions, and sometime in September as we were driving home she was telling me how they were learning about aboriginal cultures where a boy would have to perform some significant and often dangerous task or feat in order to prove himself and be fully accepted as an adult in the society.

And as she was talking I was wondering if today’s society really has any kind of true rites of passage any more — something where our young people can truly prove their mettle. We have first communions and bar mitzvahs and all that, but the adolescent involved doesn’t really have to prove him/herself — and there’s no real risk involved to the adult members in taking these young people in and accepting them as adults.

I guess the true rites of passage in 21st century middle-class suburban society probably don’t involve church rituals as much any more as they do, perhaps, entrusting your son or daughter to pilot a 3,000-pound hunk of steel at high rates of speed around other 3,000-pound hunks of steel also travelling at high rates of speed and also piloted by adolescents.


Or perhaps to maneuver a roaring contraption with a sharp, heavy blade spinning with such force and at such a high rate of speed that it’s capable of lopping off entire hands or feet or worse in the quickest blink of an eye. Now that’s really proving yourself.


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