Are Teenagers Court Jesters?
Teenagers are our contemporary Court Jesters. The tradition of the Court Jester goes back over 2000 years. They were officers formerly attached to a king’s household whose business was to amuse the court by ludicrous actions and utterances enhanced by their motley costume. Sound familiar? While the jester was considered by many to be a fool and full of folly, poets and intellectuals delighted to represent them as wise and witty individuals who could speak uncensored, sometimes voicing truth to power.
Teenagers are coming into an awareness of diverse ideas within an expanding universe as they come into greater and greater cognitive abilities. Honed by thousands of years of evolution the period of adolescence is a time of great change and transformation. Teenagers’ brains are different from those of children and adults. Neuroscientists have called their brains the “adaptive brains.” They have a unique ability to think outside the box, be creative, challenge existing norms and behaviors and test limits which sometimes drives adults crazy! It does, however, often drive adults to think outside the box and examine what they are doing.
One of the most famous of the European court jesters was Nasir Ed Din. One day the king glimpsed himself in a mirror and, saddened at how old he looked he started crying. The other members of the court decided they better cry as well. When the king stopped crying everyone else, except Nasir Ed Din stopped crying as well. When the king asked Nasir why he was still crying, he replied, “Sire, you looked at yourself in the mirror but for a moment and you cried. I have to look at you all the time.”
Evolution chose adolescents to hold the most important knowledge in the Universe.
Do you know why?
Evolution designed adolescents with a specific purpose. They hold the key to our species survival. Honed by thousands of years of evolution the period of adolescence is a time of great change and transformation not only for the individual child, but also for their parents and entire community. The unique ability to think outside the box is nature’s way of compelling us to pay attention to adolescents. Why? Because their cognitive abilities have begun to advance with abilities to wonder and think abstractly. They spend more and more time in periods of reflection, examining more closely everything around them and wondering, what does it all mean? Where did I come from? Where am I going? What’s my purpose? How do I fit in? These are the questions that create anxiety in them and challenge adults to help them find answers.
Long ago we knew this period of adolescence was special and an asset to the village and culture. Teens’ newly developed abilities were designed to help their village survive. Their newly formed perceptions of the world helped the village see things in a new light, with new eyes. It was at this time that adolescents entered a period of initiation and community-oriented rites of passage. Frequently, the teens were sent to cloistered places, some called it a “vision-quest.” They would have visions and thoughts about life, their future and the future of their village. During this time of transition the elders summoned these youth, Initiates, to sit in counsel with them. They listened to their visions, their thoughts, their critics and interpreted their words, filtering out what was helpful and served survival from what was, well, just foolishness.
Does your teen hold the key to heal the universe?
Engaging in conversations with adolescents on questions that matter to them is a way to find out. Encouraging them to explore many different possibilities, with support, love and compassion helps adolescents develop a healthy identity that is caring and compassionate for others.