The Triple Crown of Unmatured

I grew up interested in horse-racing. In the summer as a kid in Edmonton, my uncle, ten years older than me and studying at the University of Alberta, would sometimes take me to the track to catch the last few races. We’d get in free. I loved seeing the horses. I loved seeing my uncle’s excitement and the way he would comb through the program to look at a horse’s history.

The Triple Crown in horse-racing is the big three of annual races in North America. Each is prestigious. The Preakness Stakes. The Kentucky Derby. The Belmont Stakes. If won together in the same year, the horse is deemed the Triple Crown winner. It doesn’t happen that often; there have only been 13 horses to do this. On Saturday, “Justify” won the Belmont Stakes to cap the Triple Crown. It’s the second time in three years that a horse has done this. However, before that, it had been 37 years.

I’ve been thinking a bunch about another kind of triple crown that has more to do with failure to mature than with fast horses. I’d suggest that three qualities that block maturing are dishonesty, manipulation, and hypocrisy. These are all pretty strong words. Prestigious, I suppose, like the horse races, in their own right. Patterned together is really quite a package of potential harm.

To be clear, I can find each of these qualities in me. This isn’t a post about purity and moral perfection. Without intending malice, many of us have to move the edges a bit in the name of the good things that we love or care about. I do manipulate my 13 year-old when I’m trying to get him off of too much video game play. I’m not sure it’s even possible to be totally honest with self or with others, but these are issues of complexity and emotional awareness more so than scruples and morals.

All of this plays out on many layers. One, that many of us are paying attention to, is with US President Donald Trump. The latest arising storm and name calling from that presidency is from the G7 economic gathering held last week in Quebec, Canada. I don’t track the details of the economics of that; there are just too many that are beyond my primary interests. But I somehow can’t help but pay attention to the behaviors exhibited and reported. Donald Trump so often seems to want to stand out on his own. To go against the grain. To rattle the cages. To shake the fences. It seems so often that he does so with arrogance, wielding power and privilege like no other. Collaboration doesn’t seem to be his game. He’s stirring the pot, sometimes completely tipping it over, and sometimes smashing it with a sledgehammer.

Let’s go back to the triple crown of unmaturation. I don’t have a problem with manipulation, hypocrisy, and dishonesty being part of the narrative. I’m talking about nuances now. Not, “it’s ok to be 94% manipulative; everybody does it.” Rather, “there is some of the everything in all of us, even less than one per cent.” They are nuances that when owned, can be quite evolutionary. However, with Trump (and for now, I’m just using him as a symbol), he just seems to get off on it. It’s his operating mode. It’s his expression of power (which so often is a compensation for fear, right). Mix in some narcissist here and you get someone not working for a higher cause (I do love my 13 year-old when I’m interrupting his overdone video games), but rather, behaving like that annoying little brother that can’t help but act selfishly because he’s still a boy.

Personally, I’m hoping that we get through this presidency and time of living without annihilation. When you give your teenager the keys to the car the first few times, there’s a period where you hope that they just don’t do damage. You hope that they mature into more responsible adult humans. Same here with Donald Trump. Let’s hope that the local and global ability to cooperate, collaborate, and work for the higher good isn’t completely undermined for generations.

In the mean time, I do believe Trump as symbol is provoking most of us to attend to shadowy parts within us. That’s a good thing. There’s much to learn. And it might just be that this is the opportunity that Trump can uniquely invoke in contemporary society, like no other. We may not be able to get to an evolution of consciousness without times like these. There’s risk.

But let’s call it what it is. Manipulation, dishonesty, and hypocrisy — when done with such egotism, that’s a triple crown that contaminates, not elevates for the higher good.

Singularity of Premise

When you are a kid, you believe things in very simple manners. “It was Wendy’s fault (my older sister).” I’d proclaim this when asked by my parents what all the noise was about. This was one of those simple manners for me. To be fair, Wendy had several assertions of cause about me too. I’m glad that she and I are close in our adult lives — she is someone that I respect dearly.

Such certainty goes with that developmental stage — we were five and seven. You hold on to a belief (without ever calling it that), not because it is a true expressions of what is really going on, but because it comforts. It is convenient. Or it just gets you out of trouble.

When you grow up, which I believe is a process that extends well past puberty and early adult life, you start to see the complexity of things. You start to see that many factors contribute to not just a description of a static occurrence, but to a dynamic of something that is ever evolving. Why do we have climate change — there are many contributing factors. Or, in retrospect, why were Wendy and I making a lot of noise — we both contributed to it, not to mention some of the environment that was our home.

I continue to observe in myself and in others, personally and professionally, that increasing complexity requires all of us to expand the premises of causality and relational dynamics that are in play at any one time. It’s easy to attribute sole fault to another person, but that’s usually just emotional laziness. Or complacency. Or manipulative convenience.

It takes some skill to hold multiple contrasting views at one time. It takes some humility to recognize when we are just speaking louder with hopes of cajoling or bullying people into what is really one of many stories that we are trying to sell as a singular story and premise.

This is not easy work. And not what I would expect our five or seven year-old selves to do. But when your in your 50s, wow — this becomes really important in contributing to a peaceful world and community. It becomes essential to navigate the noise that has gone way past “who took my bubble gum.”

I have hopes for all of us in this. Fears too. Doubts too. And I recognize we need friends to grow into our grown selves, past the time when reductionism protected us (or at least we thought it did) to the imperative of inter-weaving multiple premises at one time. Singularity of premise masquerades as clarity, but masquerades often end at the chime of midnight.

It’s midnight, and time to get to the pluralities essential for our sanity, survival, and evolution. As a species. As communities. As families. And as individual navigating such complex times.

What Boys Do

Boys do stupid things. I am one of them. I’ve done a few stupid things in my time.

This is not to say that boys are generally stupid. Nor, that all boys are stupid. Nor, that boys don’t do some pretty amazing and intelligent and kind things. But, I’m guessing that most of us, now grown in age, could have an important round of sharing stories about stupid things we’ve done, ranging anything from confessions of shame to “thank God it all worked out” acknowledgements of dumb luck.

I remember the time my twelve year-old friend took a whack at hornet’s nest (yes, I watched). That didn’t turn out too well. It required a trip to the hospital and counting the bites as badge of honor was of little comfort.

I remember the time my two early teen friends and I rode triple on a small mustang bike. One stood peddling. One on the handle bars. One sitting backwards on the seat. I think we laughed, proud of our ingenuity which only needed to get us half a mile to the end of the block. That one ended in scrapes and bruises and nowhere near the end of the block.

And then there was the time that two of my high school friends sat down, intrusively, in a restaurant next to a scrawny and solo junior high kid (I was pretty scrawny too), and pulled up their sleeves and began flexing biceps. It seemed funny, but…

Boys do stupid things.

So let’s suppose that, developmentally, boys will continue to do a stupid thing here and there. Inevitably. Let’s call it a phase, please.

The problem, however, is when boys don’t make it far enough out of the phase that tells us it’s a good idea to whack a hornet’s nest. When you’re twelve, ok. Live and learn. You’ll survive, hopefully. Say sorry to the hornets. When your 22, umm, really? When your 42, developmentally stunted. When your older than that, well that’s just sad. When your a leader with power, weapons, resources and influence globally, umm, that’s at minimum, sad commentary, and arguably, immoral or criminal.

Too many men are living void of essential maturing, still doing stupid boy things, yet with the power of bigger weapons, wealth, and ego — costumed in the illusion of matured human being.

When your a boy doing stupid things, stuff that doesn’t really matter in the long run, seems to matter a bunch. Speed means a lot. Fast cars. Shiny hubcaps. Bulking up means something. Protein. Calories. Looking good at the beach, or the pool, or hanging out on the corner. When your a teenaged boy doing stupid things, hormones drive way too much and too far. It’s stupid to objectify women and claim property in sexual encounter. When you are a boy doing stupid things, you pick fights that don’t need to be fought. Your pride doesn’t let you back down. You escalate to save face. When you’re a boy doing stupid things, you start fires with gasoline and if you are lucky, you only singe your eyebrows. Then you do it again without regard, grabbing a bigger canteen of gas.

Let’s be clear. There are many underlaying narratives and entrenched societal practices that need fundamental re-evaluation and conscious evolution. Much underlaying emotion is surfacing now — animosity, polarity, extremism — but these have been present, lurking, and hidden for a long time. I believe we are now living in an unavoidable confrontation with much hidden individual and collective shadow, which is a good thing. It’s not, however, leadership that is calling all of this forward. It is merely a symbol of outrageous egotism that is triggering most of us, and upping our alertness to essential, required, evolutionary change.

When boys pose as men, with accoutrements of power, money, authority, and yet still, to the core, have the unmatured, uninitiated psyche of boys, we are in a time of some much needed and deep soul searching. Definitely for what we see “out there.” But also for the unmatured and uninitiated “in here,” in each of us. It’s time to name the stupid boy things out loud, honestly. It’s time to take a good look inside to the ways that collectively, we’ve grown and allowed such hornet-whacking norms to be considered even remotely acceptable in boys and men.

Soul-searching. This is one of those times.