almost childlike population

Until relatively recent times man’s span of life was short.

Throughout most of history the truly old were a rarity. In an excavation of one of the world’s oldest cemeteries, the skeletons showed that the average age of the population at death was twenty-five, and there is no reason to suppose that the place was unusually unhealthy.

Thus it seems plausible that the momentous discoveries and inventions of the Neolithic Age—the domestication of animals and plants; the invention of the wheel, sail, and plough; the discovery of irrigation, fermentation, and metallurgy—were the work of an almost childlike population, and were perhaps made in the course of play.

Nor is it likely that the ancient myths and legends, with their fairy-tale pattern and erotic symbolism, were elaborated by burnt-out old men.

This history of less ancient periods, too, reveals the juvenile character of their chief actors. Many observers have remarked on the smallness of the armor which has come down to us from the Middle Ages. Actually, the men who wore this armor were not grownups. They were married at thirteen, were warriors and leaders in their teens, and senile at thirty-five or forty.

The Black Prince was sixteen when he won fame in the battle of Crécy, and Joan of Arc seventeen when she took Orléans from the English. . . . In the first half of the sixteenth century, Charles the Fifth became Emperor at the age of twenty, Francis the First became King of France at twenty-one and Henry the Eighth King of England at eighteen.

The question is whether the juvenile mentality is confined to adolescents. Do people automatically grow up as they grow older? Is not juvenility a state of mind rather than a matter of years? Are there not teenagers of every age?

Hoffer, Eric. The Temper of Our Time. New York: Harper & Row, 1966. 4-5. Print.


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