Where did “mid-life crisis” come from?
Quickie from Wiki: “Midlife crisis is a term coined in 1965 by Elliott Jaques and used in Western societies to describe a period of dramatic self-doubt that is felt by some individuals in the "middle years" of life, as a result of sensing the passing of youth and the imminence of old age. Sometimes, transitions experienced in these years, such as aging in general, menopause, the death of parents, or children leaving home, can trigger such a crisis. The result may be a desire to make significant changes in core aspects of day to day life or situation, such as in career, marriage, or romantic relationships.”
My American culture recognizes that ‘life is a journey’ and it frames this journey as one of material acquisition. He who dies with the most stuff wins; Bernie almost made it to the grave as a BIG winner in the eyes of my culture.
I reject many of my cultures acquisition values as being excessive; I think of my life as primarily a journey of self-actualization. My journey includes visiting the written works of great men and women in an effort to discover ‘why we humans do the things we do and can we do better’. The American educational system disparages such values of disinterested enlightenment, i.e. enlightenment not directed at material acquisition; thus most Americans find such an idea to be alien. I suspect that applies to most Western democracies.
Marshall McLuhan has stated that all technology is an extension of a human faculty. The ‘bomb is an extension of the fist’ is a simple example. It is when I recognized that the Internet is an extension of the brain that I found his idea more sustainable. I think that we must treat his theory as being somewhat like a metaphor and not treat it too literally. Nevertheless I think it is a great insight and a useful tool for understanding human behavior.
Another example of this influence of technology upon human life would be in the matter of longevity. In the early 20th century life expectancy at birth was 30-40 years; today’s life expectancy at birth, world wide, is 70 years. We might correctly say that life expectancy doubled in the last one hundred years.
What affect has this had upon our lives? I think that one might correctly say that this longevity has provided us with a period of 7-10 years that created an ‘adolescence’ period that never existed before and it provided a period in which we might associate with men’s ‘mid-life crises’ that is so evident today. Also we have a period of ‘retirement’ that never existed before.
I have for four years browsed Internet discussion forums. I use McLuhan’s insight to peer into the brain of the forum member and this is some of my observations.
We are lousy readers. To quantify the matter I am going to use a scale of reading ability ranging from 1 to 10, with ‘1’ being barely literate and ‘10’ being 30% comprehension of a difficult text after a first quick reading.
I would judge that the average reader is a ‘4’. The first time a form member reads a posted paragraph I guess that the forum member comprehends less than 10% of the meaning of the post. All evidence points to the conclusion that almost no member reads the post more than once.
In most cases my observation leads me to conclude that 90% of the time the reader does not comprehend the point of the paragraph.
Fibber McGee was a popular radio show in the forties and fifties and a standing joke was Fibber’s closet. He would always open his hall closet and all sorts of things would come tumbling out. I would judge that most reader’s brains are like Fibber’s closet. Any word or phrase, in something the reader sees, triggers an opening of the brain’s door and massive amounts of instant miscellaneous opinions come tumbling out.