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Community Conversation Reflection with David Marshak

David Marshak shared significant insights on TLF’s Sunday Community Conversation.

His Guidebook: Inviting Youths to Claim the Power of Their Imaginations was published in 2019.

In it he shares stories of youth from around the world who are making a big difference, and he reinforces why this should not be seen as uncommon.  After all the term “adolescence” was coined in 1904 and yet really wasn’t seen as a real subgroup  until the 1960’s when the counter culture emerged and the term adolescence began to take on negative connotations. Historically our species has been around for close to 200,000 years and between 35-50,000 years ago we reached modernity. Back in earlier recorded history-let’s say just 100 years ago and before -humans were considered adults when they reached puberty.  But today’s youth are told to “wait” until later to become an adult.

Today, David suggests we as a society have a fundamental misunderstanding about youth between the ages of 13 and 19. We relate with what Joseph Chilton Pearce wrote about as the three characteristics that youth bring to life:

  1. Energetic idealism: youths see the limitations and failures of adults and envision the potentiality of rectifying these failures and surpassing the limitations.
  1. Great expectations for their own lives: They have soulful pursuits and a strong curiosity.
  1. Feelings of hidden greatness: For many it comes in as a “whisper” that provides a seedling for a real contribution they can offer.

During the conversation many of the community shared their own experiences of what happened for them during these years of growing up. We each reflected after being guided to a quiet place – to journey back to our childhood.  

After sharing our reflections, David suggested that to many youth their high school experience is akin to a teen ghetto. By grouping same age youth together without much interaction with adults and holding back their natural inclinations with messages such as: “wait until you’re older,” “you aren’t ready, wait so you can do something that matters.” In conventional schools everyone is treated the same-and if a youth doesn’t fit into this “sameness” then they are labeled as if something is wrong with them!

What we need to do is recognize the uniqueness in each individual and support that unfoldment. In his book, David shares how the power of technology and especially the internet is key in helping youth who are following their “calling” be seen and heard, such as Greta Thunberg. What began as a personal “sit down strike” regarding heat waves, fires leading climate change- her stance went viral and started a movement for more students around the world to take part in similar strikes. In December 2018 she addressed the United Nations Climate Change Conference. She followed her “whisper.”

What can we do to be a part of the change needed for more youth to be released from the ghetto? Begin with connecting with the youth in our lives. Invite them to explore their own experience of a “whisper,” or a calling-by inviting them to participate in your world and invite experiences of imagination. David’s Guidebook offers skills and exercises to begin. 

Expand to include youth in your lives and allow them to share what’s important to them.  There is much we can learn by bringing different generations together.  Especially now in the midst of a major global reset. Perhaps the 3 key characteristics Joseph Chilton Pearce shared regarding our youth are essential. Let’s ask ourselves: what can our youth bring naturally when we give them a place to be nourished and heard? Just think…maybe we can create the inspired future that they hold on their hearts. 

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