I don’t see 21C Magazine on the newstands around me anymore; I had assumed they went out of business, but they have a web site and appear to be thriving. Their latest issue, all of which appears to be available online, has some good stuff in it. Most compelling to me was the piece about the documentary movie “The Devil’s Playground,” which is about the Amish concept of rumspringa. The Amish are famously strict parents, but at age 16, all the rules drop away and their children can do whatever they want until they make their decision (so goes the theory) to commit themselves to their church and community. The wild (and thoroughly modern) partying that goes on during the rumspringa is eye-opening, almost straining belief. Can it really be like this? But sure enough, a lot of the kids, though not all of them, exorcize the wildness and return to the fold. There’s something very civilized about this. It seems saner than either continuous cradle-to-grave repression or anarchic loosey-goosey upbringing.
We should all have a rumspringa. The word has pleasant connotations of a rum-soaked spring break, and the concept brings a certain sensible framework to the inevitable teenage rebellion and dissipation. The only way to avoid the corrosive seduction of the english world is to embrace it and then walk away. Makes sense to me. Here’s a long quote from the article.
The Amish …[prefer] their adherents to join the church when they are old enough to make an informed decision about committing to the religion for life. Therefore when each child turns 16 they can experience the outside “english” world with all its temptations -“the devil’s playground” – in order to make their decision. This period in their life is known in their Pennsylvania Dutch language as rumspringa, which literally translates as “running around”. It ends whenever an individual feels ready – typically between the ages of 18-22 – to make the decision that will determine the rest of their lives.