Angilbert (fl. ca. 840/50), On the Battle Which was Fought at Fontenoy

The Law of Christians is broken,
Blood by the hands of hell profusely shed like rain,
And the throat of Cerberus bellows songs of joy.

Angelbertus, Versus de Bella que fuit acta Fontaneto

Fracta est lex christianorum
Sanguinis proluvio, unde manus inferorum,
gaudet gula Cerberi.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Laborem Solis Sive Eclipsis Moralis: Adolescentia in Perpetuum

IT IS NOT GOOD FOR MAN TO BE ALONE says the Book of Genesis (2:18), and yet it seems that there is a tendency modernly to increase the time between the biological readiness to begin a family (post-puberty) and the readiness to want to assume those responsibilities (marriage). Budziszewski calls this the "prolongation of adolescence," which seems to be the most common term given to this phenomenon. Professor Jeffrey Jensen Arnett (Clark University) has called it "emerging adulthood." Some time ago, Arthur Goldberg even fashioned a neologism for the study of this phenomenon: Juvenatrics (although the neologism never caught on). Equally infelicitous is the phrase "adultescence." Darrin Patrick called the male between the "boy" and the "man" a "ban," and following that reasoning we might come call the female between a "girl" and a "woman" a "goman" or "giman." It is a phenomenon that was lampooned in the movie Failure to Launch.

In traditional societies, adolescence is relatively short, whereas in contemporary civilized that time seems to be expanding. It appears to be the result of two interacting phenomena: the earlier onset of puberty and the later onset of marriage and the shouldering of its responsibilities, including the procreation of children. More boys live in their parents' basement, playing video games and engaging in other less fruitful endeavors.

The problem is measurable, and the statistics do not lie. In 2010, using data from the U. S. Current Population Survey, Vanessa Wight of Columbia University showed that in 1970, the median age for a first marriage was 20.8 for women and 23.2 for men, but that it has increased to 25.9 for women and 28.1 for men.* All told, in just forty years there has been an approximate 5-year prolongation of adolescence.

One would not think that this prolongation of adolescence would raise moral issues, but, according to Budziszewski it does:

The unnatural prolongation of adolescence poses a variety of moral problems. Normal erotic desire is transmuted from a spur to marriage to an incentive for promiscuity. Promiscuity thwarts the attainment of moral wisdom, and makes conjugal love itself seem unattractive. Furthermore, prolonged irresponsibility is itself a sort of training, and a bad one. Before long the entire culture is caught up in a Peter Pan syndrome, terrified of leaving childhood. At this point even the responsibilities of marriage and family lose their transformative character.

Budziszewski (2003), 176. It is this problem that was humorously handled in the movie Knocked Up.

But while we can identify the problem and make movies about the phenomenon, we cannot seem to fix the problem. We seem to be raising children who avoid marriage, avoid responsibility, delay effective contribution to society, and contribute to moral decay be continuing to insist on sex outside of marriage without any ties to the conjugal life and without any connection to the procreation of children.

*Cited in Pundit and Pundette, "Adulthood Undermined,"

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