The Great Tragedy: The young person’s rite of passage

Nearly every person I’ve ever known has gone through this dark rite.  Usually in their college years, though sometimes before it or after it.  There comes a time where you will feel you have betrayed your values.  You may question the fundamental aspects of your identity.  You may feel that you have betrayed your beliefs or destroyed your dreams.

It is so very important to remember that you are not alone.  It seems increasingly obvious to me, the older I get, that this is an experience we all must endure.

Yes, everyone goes through rough patches and faces challenges, some more then others.  What I am referring to is something different.  To me, this tragedy is of a scale that forces the person to rethink the scope and scale of their life and identity.  And those I know who endure it bravely and truthfully come out the other side stronger and better then they were before.

The crisis that I faced, during my first year of college, forced me to reconsider everything I held philosophically true about the world and myself.  It forced me to scrutinize all of my relationships, my friendships, and my future plans.  Ultimately, everything I believe either changed or became reinforced a hundred times.  I owe everything to my endurance of that tragedy.

Even still, it can be easy to see pain and discomfort as extremely undesirable experiences.  It is only natural that we want to scream out or run away from events or memories that cause us pain.  Running and screaming only tire us into apathy.  They can’t cure us of any truthfully deep wounds.  I believe very strongly that the only way we can overcome pain is to confront it.  I try and do so in the films I direct and the stories I write.  More often then not, this confrontation teaches me important lessons that makes the failures I’ve endured or that my friends have endured worth the suffering.  In those lessons the very consciousness of our being expands.  We become more mindful of what it means to explore the world and celebrate this life.

I hope that if you ever must endure the great tragedy in some form, you treat it as a rite of passage.  We live in times where rites of passage are long abandoned relics of a past we seem almost ashamed of.  I don’t believe that is a healthy way to approach our past.

Rituals and rites of passage were deeply necessary parts of human growth and experience for thousands of years.  The key to the ancient coming of age rite of passage was always some struggle, some quest, which marked the passage from childhood into personhood.  In the absence of well articulated formal ritual, I think we may naturally have tended to interpret areas of our experience in a way that matches the need for struggle that a true rite of passage would have given us.  Maybe this is where the formative tragedy that seems to define the coming of age of myself and so many of my peers arrives from.

After all, growth into adulthood can’t only be the striking of a clock at midnight on your eighteenth birthday.  But if it is only a gradual invisible process never demarcated by any formal instance, how can we really feel that we have made this transition?  How rootless we have become, severed from an inheritance of wisdom, ritual, and ancient knowledge.

As for me, I will continue to commit myself to interpreting the struggle inherent in my exploration of the world and celebration of life in a way that is oriented toward growth and love.  No matter the pain or grief I discover along the way.