Puberty Blues

poster-bergsteiger-geht-einen-schmalen-pfad-entlang-175054When I was in high school, my science class took a field trip to Griffith Park Observatory (the one in La La Land and Rebel Without a Cause). The highlight was the Planetarium Show: We leaned back and emitted a communal “Oooooo!” as the dome darkened and a giant tinkertoy projected the heavens above us. Our nasal-voiced host tapped his mic and said, “Space! When we gaze upon it, we cannot help but wonder, ‘Are we unique?’” Then a surfer kid named Greg shouted, “I don’t know about us, dude, but you are!” And our Oooos turned to laughter. Still, I couldn’t help but wonder…

Are we unique? A barrage of voices has answered in the negative. Darwin informed us that we’re here by mere chance. Freud insisted our religious impulses were simply mass neuroses. Pavlov and Skinner showed us our behaviors were nothing more than programmed responses.

Is that all we are? We do perform automatic behaviors. When our car approaches a traffic signal, our programming kicks in: green means go, red means stop, yellow means go really fast. We even press our foot down when a red light appears on our television–to stop our couch from running into the entertainment center.

Do we ever make conscious choices? Or is choice merely an illusion? 75% of child abusers were abused as children. A huge percentage of addicts were raised by addicts. Divorce is the norm for those who come from broken homes (when asked if her eighth husband was “the one,” Elizabeth Taylor replied, “Of course. They always are”).

We’re programmed—for good and for bad—in a multitude of ways. But we are more than brainstems and pituitary glands. More than instinct. More than programming. Human beings are (cue horror movie music) The Creatures with Two Brains!

At puberty, the two nearly identical halves of the human cerebrum begin to function like separate brains (this only happens in humans). There are a lot of ramifications, but one of the most intriguing is this: We talk to ourselves.

If you’re thinking, “I don’t do that,” guess what? You just did. We all do. Thanks to the fact that we have a spare brain, we’re able to think, to reason with ourselves. Which is why, throughout human history, puberty has been recognized not only as the beginning of adulthood, but as the age of “moral accountability.” At puberty we go beyond our programming and become capable of being our own programmers!

Yet few ever fully own this capability. They get the puberty blues and refuse to choose! Why? Because it’s hard. It’s so much easier to continue to be programmed–by society, movies, pop culture, impulses, habits, stimulants–to simply go with the flow. Jesus warned that this “broad way” leads to destruction, to the loss of our humanity, and yet many end up on it. But “the way that leads to life,” he says, “is narrow and few choose it.” (Matthew 7:13-14). Notice, he didn’t say that many choose the broad way, because they don’t. No one chooses destruction. Instead, they allow the choice to made for them.

Most people believe what they live. Only a few live what they believe. Most base what they believe on the patterns they’ve fallen into (or been pushed into). Only a few struggle, no matter what the cost, to find the narrow path that leads to life.

But you can choose. You’re not Pavlov’s dog — you’re Pavlov — if you choose to be. Learn what’s true. Learn what’s right. And then choose to live what you believe. You are unique.

Live like it!

About mitchteemley

Writer, Filmmaker, Humorist, Thinker-about-stuffer
This entry was posted in For Pastors and Teachers, Humor, Memoir and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

35 Responses to Puberty Blues

  1. I am at one with my duality …

    Liked by 2 people

  2. It’s always in hindsight that many of us learn this. I’m sharing this with my (adult) children.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Excellent….and when I saw the title, I wondered if I needed to cover my cat’s eyes. 😁🙏

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Awesome article Mitch… I’m so thankful that God created us to choose and not to be programmed robotic beings. Though I made some poor choices in my youth (and even adulthood, truth be known), I am so so thankful for the God of Truth…so thankful for His grace and to delivered from that youthful conundrum. Thank you for the challenge to NOT believe what I live, but to live what I believe. Yep, it is always a challenge and still a choice…even after all these years. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  5. “At puberty, the two nearly identical halves of the human cerebrum begin to function like separate brains…” Well, that explains a lot. (said the middle school teacher)
    Good point about the broad road. I never noticed before that Jesus didn’t say the broad road was “chosen.” But, as a poster my sister had in the 60’s said, “Not to decide is to decide.”

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Linda Lee/@LadyQuixote says:

    I knew a woman who only had half a brain. When she was a child, surgeons had removed one entire hemisphere of her brain in a desperate attempt to put an end to her non-stop seizures. It worked.

    When I knew her, she was probably in her fifties, living on her own and functioning very well. I spent the day with her once. She seemed like a perfectly normal woman with no obvious cognitive impairment. It seemed to me that her only real impairment was simply the awareness that she only had half a brain. I think she would have been better off not knowing.

    You know what? We human beings really are fearfully and wonderfully made. 😊

    Liked by 2 people

  7. LTWrites says:

    I love this, because though the path is narrow, it is true and we are so much more for walking it.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. “That I find to do good, I do not.”

    Liked by 1 person

  9. gregoryjoel says:

    Thank you for the insights. I always tell folks, “show me how behave and I’ll tell you what you believe”. We live out our belief systems daily. I’m so grateful for a gracious, loving Father who led my away from a false belief system! I still carry the weight of false beliefs about myself and the nature of things, but they lose their weight over time and practice. Thank you for reminding me that I may be a product of my environment but I don’t have to be a prisoner of it.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. numrhood says:

    Matthew 7:11 hide the word in the heart
    you will not sin against thee


  11. Ann Coleman says:

    We do talk to ourselves, and a good thing, too! It is what reminds us that we have a choice, that we are unique, and that we have the ability to become the person God wants us to be.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. I remember those days when we went on field trips. And there was always someone who had an important announcement to add. Was that a part of the Puberty as well? Great post with some interesting insights.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Very well done! ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Gary Fultz says:

    Apt Title for our times. I sense it’s getting harder and not as cool to think independently and differently than all the loud and demanding voices out there. Lately I have been imagining each facebook friend as having a coin minted for who they seem to follow…seems like…1) In CNN we trust 2) In Fox news we trust 3) In Huffpost we trust 3) In God we trust…and so on (don’t let them know, judging?)
    Great insight Mitch

    Liked by 1 person

  15. numrhood says:

    missing Matthew 7:11


  16. Pingback: The Boy with Two Brains | Mitch Teemley

  17. Pingback: Free Free Will! | Mitch Teemley

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