by Arran James

The trauma of adolescence is the trauma of the awareness of things for the first time. Adolescence is that period of life where certain truths are gleaned for the first time, allowed to incubate, to be experimented with in terms of style and behavioural outputs. These are more properly intuitions of truth, and they may be experienced rather differently by this yound woman and that young man. This is not a worked out idea. or an essay length post…I have neither the time nor the desire for that. I am haunted by adolescence and its force. The horrific insights, the discovery of one’s own body, the reductive attitude, the desire to turn one’s head and let happen what may happen- maybe even to get blind drunk while it is going on. And I wonder, humans being cognitively of a type (or a few types) whether this is so unique a feeling. An intuition about intuitions then, and one that might contradict itself at that. A speculation I have never been able to get rid of:


at adolescence we see the world and ourselves and soon after turn tail and run as fast and as far as we can manage. Growing up, being an adult, getting a life… it is all the evasion of a body that cannot bear the glimpse of its own fragility, precariousness, its unimportance and (perhaps, sensing it tentatively, uncertainly, a little frightfully) its own accomplished nonexistence.

Adolescence is the age of the blossoming of the delicate buds of nihilism. After that we learn how to cope with that nihilism. A post-nihilist pragmatism? Maybe it already exists…it’s everything you and I are doing right now, tomorrow, and each day thereafter. Pragmatism is all we have? 


Maybe then, the ‘objective nihilism’ that is indistinguishable from the structure of the world in these fading days after the future are also a kind of developmental transition for us all…a kind of species-adolescence. The question might then not be what is to be done, but who do we want to be when we grow up?

Adolescence remains dangerous though. Some fall in to ego-bolstering to seal up the cracks (as I did in my youth, having had something of an intellectual hardon for people like Hakim Bey, Max Stirner…all that jazz). Maybe the reason there is so much anti-anthropocentrism around today is less due to the rediscovery of the great outdoors, which was really only a rediscovery for those philosophers and cultural theorists who didn’t like going anywhere without a Text to hand, and is more about the reactive impulse of a threatened psychology. Faced with our own unimportance we discard the mirror and reach for photoshop; scared, we turn away from the technical manual and begin again to mythologise.


A tempting question presents itself, one that might be considered neurotic or irresponsible- what would it look like to hold true to adolescence? To flee in neither direction. Maybe it would only spell ruin. But at least ruins are pretty.