I refer to this flash of insight, this explosive expansion of awareness, as the Spark of Adolescence.
I've been using this term and considering its implications for about 15 years now, and I believe the specific term is original with me. (Please let me know if others have used it before, and I will give them credit). The idea, however, has been around forever. Hundreds of writers and millions of thinking individuals over the centuries since humans became self-aware have recognized this miracle that occurs in virtually every person, girl and boy, African, Caucasian, Asian, Irish, ugly, beautiful, tall and short.
Then, tragically, most people (at least in Western Society) lose the magic as they succumb to the idea that adulthood means rejecting childhood and adolescence. No mistake could be bigger, no loss more profound.
In a song which I heard only once, sung by John Gary on "The Steve Allen Show" (television, 14 December 1970), the sense of loss is poignantly expressed:
For a popular, if limited, example from literature we can revisit the obvious: J.M. Barrie's Peter Pan, a character that appeared in Barrie's novel The Little White Bird, 1902 and then as the central figure in his most famous work, the stage play Peter Pan, or The Boy Who Wouldn't Grow Up, which opened on 27 December 1904.
In my view, no-one has expressed the Spark, its importance, and the tragedy of its loss, as well as the British humourist, actor and writer Stephen Fry, in his autobiography Moab is My Washpot (London: Hutchinson, 1997):
[written in the Summer of 1973, aged 16}:
To Myself: Not To Be Read Until I Am Twenty-Five . . . Everything I feel now, everything I am now is truer and better than anything I shall ever be. Ever. This is me now, the real me. Every day that I grow away from the me that is writing this now is a betrayal and a defeat. . . . This is the age when I truly am. From now on my life will be behind me. . . . WHAT I AM NOW IS ME, WHAT I WILL BE IS A LIE. [all-caps in the original] (pp.283-84)
I knew that it was my destiny to become a foreigner, a stranger to myself. I was passionately patriotic about my own age, a fierce believer in the rightness and justness of adolescence, the clarity of its vision, the unfathomable depths and insurmountable heights of its despair and its joy. . . . Because I had read a great deal I knew . . . that one day I would . . . take up citizenship in a different country, the country of the adult, and I hated my future self because of it. (pp.284-85)
The perception of nature, the depth of emotion, the brightness and intensity of every moment, I knew these faded with age and I hated myself in advance for that. (p.286)
I am weeping . . . for the death of adolescence, the death of childhood and the death of hope: there are never enough tears to mourn their passing. (p.312)
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