The first of three essays by Davis Plett
“Well,” she said, “I am seventeen and crazy.” Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
his is the first of three essays which will attempt to present a problem, a solution and a proposal – a locked door, a key, and a manner by which the key might be turned. They concern two groups of people: adolescents and adults, those who are “seventeen and crazy,” and those who have passed through adolescence and are, presumably, not so crazy as they once were.
Before we come to the solution and the proposal mentioned, we must deal with a problem – one which is by no means simple, as any teenager and any parent will testify. The problem, for the adult and the teenager alike, is this: what to do with the adolescent?
The journey an adolescent must walk is a harrowing one, sometimes made so wilfully, and sometimes not. The road of the adolescent often includes a period of terrifying, irrational darkness, a torment of mind, body, and heart, an aloneness of profound and petrifying depth. G.K. Chesterton, Paul Cezanne, Graham Greene, Kathleen Norris – all of these experienced this in one way or another. Perhaps all adolescents do. But at the very least, we teenagers are generally a sorry lot: underachieving, consuming, and depressed individuals.
If youth are a wretched bunch, our culture has certainly not offered us much assistance. We are told we are worthless; why should we reach for anything more? We are told we may feel better if we spend more money; why shouldn’t we? We are told we are useless and lazy, baggage for our society, a burden for our world. Now that’s not a very big calling, is it? In the language of Jonathan Wilson Hartgrove, we are “an abandoned place of empire.” With distressing regularity, this is the claim which our culture lays on the young.
“Shut him away!” shouts our culture.
“Shut me away!” roars the adolescent.
The adolescent slams the door on the clamouring crowd, some sinister, some crying regret, with a sound like the sealing of a tomb, an allusion which is no coincidence. For the adolescent world and heart are so often drab and dreary, dreadful and deathly. The adolescent is like a goblin that was told to leave for being ugly. Willingly, it left, locked the door, and threw away the key. Over and over again, all around this globe, the trial of the goblin is enacted, the door is locked, the key is discarded, the rift between the young and the old, even between the young and the young, widens, and the world weeps.
Such is the problem so frequently faced by both the young and the elders of our era. The tale of the adolescent and the adult is a dark one. But it is a tale which has not yet been fully told.
Davis Plett is a homeschooled grade 11 student. He is “seventeen and crazy,” and spends most of his time participating in the realms of writing, music, art, and mountain biking. He would like to thank Shaylyn Plett and Alix Janzen for their wonderful art. Shaylyn and Alix are “seventeen and crazy” as well.