When coming closer to 40 (2,5 months from now :-/) I have been starting to read different books than I did before. Thinking more about how to live a better life, what it is to be a man or what it is to be a parent I have been reading books like
- “Jörn Hans: En bok om men” (Iron John: A book about men) by Robert Bly
- “Det Infantila Samhöllet” (translates to The Infantile Society) by Carl Hamilton
These books are here and there giving me bits and pieces about my personal questions and development. What strikes me when I am reading them is that they are both pointing in the direction of huge societal problems, but from a personal or cultural perspective. Both of them are talking about responsibility and about this has been left out in our modern definition of being grown up. It seems that our society defines adults only by measuring age and not by judging their values and behaviours.
Robert Bly points out the problems emerging when you never take the traditonal steps towards being a man. Young men never pass the steps towards responsibility and adulthood by learning from other men what it is all about, how you relate to yourself and how you relate to the world when your power grows and you are increasing your sphere of influence.
Carl Hamilton is focused on the changes in society when kids learn from everywhere about the attributes and behaviours how to be grown up, but never understand the consequences or the underlying reasons behind the surface. Think e g about kids being socially thought to behave sexually, but lack the sex drive and feelings of an adult. What is more important he points in the directions of how parents doesn’t react because they (we) are busy trying to ignore what it is to be grown up.
Hamilton sums up many things when he tells us parents that we are completely misguided when we leave the kids at the grand parents for a weekend so that we can enjoy ourselves in a free and adult way. To us it is adult behaviour to go to the movies and then to a restaurant and eat without having to think about the children all the time. This is according to Hamilton a fundamental mistake since being without kids and having the freedom to go to the movies, to the restaurant and then come home late is more related to the life of the traditional teen agers or young people without children. To be adult means having responsibility for our family, and of course we can take a pause from that once in a while. But believing that freedom from a family and resonsibility has something to do with an adult life is a fundamental misconception.
Sometimes we are looking at the macro level to understand the current development in the world. I think these two books in a very good way are talking about how structural and values changes at the micro level but they stops short when it comes to see how it builds up to emergent effects at a macro level.
It reminds me of how Adam Kahane ends his lecture How to change the world.
Let me end and summarize with a story about a rabbi who, like me, set out to change the world. He found that he wasn’t making much progress, so he tried to change his country. This was also too difficult so he tried to change his neighborhood. When he didn’t have success there, he tried to change his family. Even that was easier said than done, so he tried to change himself.
Then an interesting thing happened. When he had changed himself, his family changed. And when his family changed, his neighborhood changed. When his neighborhood changed, his country changed. And when his country changed, the world changed.