4. Shitty rites of passage

I got my covid booster yesterday. I feel like garbage today. I was thinking cynically about getting vaccinated like this and feeling like crap on an annual basis, like the flu shot but with the side effects the covid shot is so well known for. It’s kind of like a rite of passage for living in our society. You get booster’d, you go through the fire and flames of suffering for a day or two, and you re-emerge allowed to operate in society freely.

I find rites of passage interesting. The spartan tale of sending the 11 year old boy to spend a terrifying night in the caves, and when they hopefully survive and come back, they’re treated as a man. No longer a child.

You want a rite of passage that creates a container for some transformation or suffering, some change. You want it to be a shared experience that adults can look back on and feel connection to the adolescent undergoing the rite. You want it to be a badge with some significance, rather than an empty signifier.

In our time we have ‘going to college’. It’s what you do to become an adult. For most people, it’s their first time living out of the house, away from their parents. It’s a semi-safe playground to try things and make friends and see what you enjoy. And once you’re done with college, you’re an adult. You get a job. Because adults have jobs, in our society.

University does a pretty poor job of being a rite of passage though, at least in our modern society. It’s undirected– you have people with ‘undecided’ majors who spend a majority of their time partying rather than working towards a positive conception of self. It’s long, where I went to college the average time to graduate for a 4 year degree was 5 years. This is way too long to spend on a ‘rite’, devoid of other value. And it’s stifling! Going to classes where you’re forced to memorize things without a clear connection to why you’re there. We knew that the point of degree was to get the piece of paper so employers would employ us. The trend of dropping out of college doubles down on this– often it’s the smartest people who’re dropping out. The rite of passage is quitting college early.

The main upside of being at university is getting to live within walking distance of your friends. Most of us move to car-dependent hell-cities the US is known for afterwards, and misplace our positive college memories as having anything to do with college-as-such versus being in pedestrian distance.

Ok, so covid shots can’t be our rite of passage, and university is getting close to turning into a pumpkin.

I like the idea of national service. Like what Singapore has. But not necessarily military service. There’s plenty of building and ditch digging and construction work that needs to be done in this country, let’s recruit all our youth for a year to do it, to work together of our society. Seems like a good bonding experience, a chance for you to work hard on a team, and a way to interact with people from completely different backgrounds.

Probably never gonna happen in the US. Am I really suggesting everyone should join the military for a year? This works OK with SG because SG knows what it’s about, if the US saw a 10x inflow of cadets, we’d probably go conquer some shit. Not ideal.

I think psychedelics are a good rite of passage. Taken in a safe environment with some positive intentions set, with a couple good friends and some good vibes music. Shows you how much of an illusion our reality is, the things we think are so serious and real are just games set up by others that we think we have to play. In the end we can do whatever we want. I think Nick Cammarata either tweeted or retweeted something to the effect of ‘do whatever you want’ ‘if you want to be the world expert in making the tea that guinea pigs find the most delicious, then do it’.

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