Without a clear transition between youth and adulthood, adolescent behavior can easily linger on indefinitely — as evidenced by our cultural obsession with fame, sex, money, material acquisition, and other essentially adolescent pursuits.
When asked in our culture “who are you?” it is customary to rattle off a chronological list of accomplishments — habitually reciting the all-too-familiar life story that keeps our sense of self comfortably (if speciously) intact.
This egoic sense of self is precisely what is targeted by traditional rites of passage, so that participants are forced to go beyond themselves to connect with something universal. As mythologist Joseph Campbellexplains:
The tribal ceremonies of birth, initiation, marriage, burial, installation, and so forth, serve to translate the individual’s life-crises and life-deeds into classic, impersonal forms. They disclose him to himself, not as this personality or that, but as the warrior, the bride, the widow, the priest, the chieftain; at the same time rehearsing for the rest of the community the old lesson of the archetypal stages.
One at a time, I put these outfits on, approach the mirror, and use my grandfather’s handheld hammer to smash its reflection, before removing the outfit and discarding its constituent elements atop the growing heap.
Breaking with the past
Once all nine mirrors have been shattered, I light a butane torch with matches and set the pile alight. I sit by the fire as the broken mirrors melt and morph within the flames, the identities mingling together in sparks.