Over the weekend, my wife and I participated in our church's annual Rite of Passage for teens and young adults transitioning between high school and college. While we don't scar bodies, knock out teeth, or make anyone walk over hot coals, we do create strenuous conditions that push the initiates (and us) into uncomfortable spaces with long periods of meditation, blindfolded hikes in the woods, and physically demanding challenges. This is mixed in with sacred readings and wisdom sharing, all performed in a context of teaching, sharing, and loving. It is an incredible gift for all involved.
It strikes me that one of this culture's problems is that there are not clearly defined rites of passages for those members of society making the transition into adulthood. Sure, we get our drivers' licenses, have sex for the first time, turn 21 and gain the sacred ability to drink legally, but there is very little training in what it means to be an adult citizen. This contributes to a generational trend (though certainly not representative of the whole!) of confused, apathetic, angry, bored youth who either feel that life is completely worthless or that they are entitled to have everything handed to them on a silver platter.
It is a remarkable experience to share such a process with young people who have a conscious intention to uncover the truth about life, about what it means to be a human being, about the purpose of the human endeavor. It is also exhausting, both physically and emotionally.
So what I observed yesterday, after an all-too-brief nap, and engaged in a snarling Saturday afternoon traffic jam on our beloved I-35 in downtown Austin, was that despite the heart-opening impressions taken in the night before, my tired state led to an easy irritability that manifested itself in judgment of others and snapping remarks toward my wife and kids. When we have these so-called holy moments, the other end of the pendulum is sure to follow shortly. It takes awareness to realize that I've mechanically drifted into nasty judgments and base criticisms. It then takes non-critical self-observation to move back into the stillness underneath all of that.
That's my daily rite of passage.