above all to appetite and to thernchild, since children in fact live atrnthe beck and call of appehte, and itrnis in them that the desire for whatrnis pleasant is strongest. .. and asrnthe child should live according tornthe direction of his tutor, so the appetitivernelement should live accordingrnto reason.rnSuch a view would be almost unintelligiblernto contemporary parents and educators,rnexcept to an admirable cluster ofrnhomeschoolers fond of the biblical warning:rn”Spare the rod, spoil the child.” Thernreason why this once-common viewrnwould nowadays meet with hostility or arnblank stare is, I fear to say, that most contemporaryrnparents and educators arernthemselves still children in the worstrnsense: willful, immature, self-indulgent.rnModerns, being afraid of suffering, displacedrnfrom nature, and spiritually alienatedrnfrom themselves, adulate childhoodrnbecause it suggests or symbolizes an escapernfrom the pains of maturity and a vicariousrnredemption from the inevitabilityrnof death. At the bottom of the fear ofrndeath is the fear of an ultimate or divinernjudgment of one’s life, a fear that no manrncan entirely eradicate from his soul (althoughrnsome have come close). Onlyrnthe mature are fit to be judged—whichrnwould explain the unconscious horrorrnoften felt toward maturity. As long as Irnnever grow up, I am not fully responsiblernfor my actions, and I never need to bernjudged as a good man or a bad man. Asrnlong as I am just a “bad littie girl” or arn”naughty little boy,” there is no realrncrime or guilt for me to answer for.rnDue in part to this unnatural obsessionrnwith youth and youthfulness, therncontemporary West artificially elongatesrnchildhood by the institution of “adolescence”rnor the “teenage years,” a fabricatedrnvacation between immaturity and maturityrnthat succeeds in prolongingrnchildish behavior even after the body hasrnbecome that of an adult. This elongationrnof psychological childhood, a stagernof life whose selfishness results from thernfall of our first parents, parallels thernmyopic Western preoccupation withrnlengthening life well past the age of naturalrndecrepitude, as though to purchasernimmortality with drugs and machines —rnthe promise made by Rene Descartes.rnHis new mechanistic philosophy, he tellsrnus,rnis desirable not only for the inventionrnof an infinity of devices whichrnwould facilitate our enjoyment ofrnthe fruits of the earth without painrn.. . but also, and most importantiy,rnfor the maintenance of health,rnwhich is undoubtedly the chiefrngood and the foundation of all otherrngoods in this life.rnIndeed, “we might free ourselves fromrninnumerable diseases, both of the bodyrnand of the mind, and perhaps even fromrnthe infirmity of old age.” Descartes sawrnin medicine the supreme fruit of man’srnearthly endeavors. The Western fixationrnon longevity is, in contemporary jargon,rn”an infantile regression complex causedrnby the desire to return to the passive undifferentiatedrnstate of infancy.” It is a desirernto recapture what is lost over time byrnmeans of charms and amulets, e.g., diets,rncosmetics, pills, fads, and devices of everyrndescription. One of the more noticeablerneffects of this disease is the sorry attemptrnof older women to look likernyounger women. As Goethe says, “Errorrnis all right so long as we are young, butrnwe must not carry it into our old age.”rnThe disease extends even to the culturalhistoricalrnplane: It is no exaggeration torncompare the contemporary West to a decrepitrnold man living out a fantasy ofrnyouth.rnOur fixation with themes of “eternalrnyouth,” taken in a crassly physical sense,rnalso does much to explain why so manyrnold people are locked up and forgotten inrnnursing homes. “Out of sight, out ofrnmind.” People do not wish to be remindedrnof senescence and mortality.rnBut there is another side to this phenomenonrnof widespread ingratitude. Arnlarge number of people cringe at the idearnof sacrificing any of their freedom — orrnwhat they think to be freedom —in orderrnto care for their elderly parents. Theyrnhave little filial piety because they arernstill unruly children who do not wish torngrow up and acknowledge the profoundrndebts they owe to others. According tornthe design of creation, grandparents arernmeant to act as counselors, teachers, andrnguardians, telling family stories and passingrndown values from one generation tornthe next. In a world of infants, there isrnscarcely a place for them; with therndemise of parenthood comes the demisernof grandparenthood. Is it any wonderrnthat the once-noble role of grandfather isrnnow often confined to the mailing of anrnoccasional birthday check, or that ofrngrandmother to the baking of holidayrncookies?rnCertain things follow from the artificialrnprolongation of childhood into “adolescence.”rnThe most important consequencernis that we have mere children,rnpsychologically speaking, foraging aboutrnin adult bodies with adult appetites.rnDuring these “adolescent” years, in additionrnto whatever enormities of uncheckedrnvoracity such hybrid child-menrncommit, psychic habits are engenderedrnwhich create deep-seated disharmony inrnthe soul and usually terminate in superficial,rnabusive, or futile relationships withrnother people later on in life. The present-rnday epidemic of prenatal infanticide,rnwhether in cold blood or in intention —rnthe neurotic hafred of children and largernfamilies that informs the worldview ofrnjournalist, feminist, and social architectrnalike —is fundamentally caused by thernself-indulgent immaturity of the neo-paganrnsoul, bent on pursuing a course ofrnuninhibited avarice and lust. The 20thrncentury is populated by children masqueradingrnas adults, the main differencernbeing that the toys of adults are vastlyrnmore sophisticated (and harmful) thanrnthose of children. Hence we arrive at thernheart of the paradox: adoration of purernpotentiality leads to the corruption of actuality.rnPut simply, adulation of thernchild leads ultimately to hatred of thernchild.rnThe 16-year-old boy who married arn14-year-old girl in A.D. 1300 could boastrnof the ability to cobble shoes or forgerniron, plant and harvest crops, break horsesrnor barter at the town market, repair arnthatched roof, amid many other talents;rnhis bride had been prepared by herrnmother to act the part of a dutiful wife,rnready to bear children, manage thernhousehold, and contribute to her husband’srnwork. In terms of independence,rnbehavior, and responsibility, these tworn”teenagers” were more mature in theirrnrosy youth than the majority of modernrnWesterners at any point in their lives.rnAnd yet, until recentiy, English historiansrnmight still have referred to the yearrn1300 as one more shadow in the lengthyrnDark Ages.rnPeter Kwasniewski teaches philosophy atrnthe International Theological Instituternfor Studies on Marriage and Family inrnGaming, Austria.rnTO SUBSCRIBErn1-800-877-5459rn48/CHRONICLESrnrnrn