Which stage of life is the most important? Some might claim that infancy is the key stage, when a baby’s brain is wide open to new experiences that will influence all the rest of its later life. Others might argue that it’s adolescence or young adulthood, when physical health is at its peak. Many cultures around the world value late adulthood more than any other, arguing that it is at this stage that the human being has finally acquired the wisdom necessary to guide others. Who is right? The truth of the matter is that every stage of life is equally significant and necessary for the welfare of humanity. In my book The Human Odyssey: Navigating the Twelve Stages of Life, I’ve written that each stage of life has its own unique “gift” to contribute to the world. We need to value each one of these gifts if we are to truly support the deepest needs of human life. Here are what I call the twelve gifts of the human life cycle:
Since each stage of life has its own unique gift to give to humanity, we need to do whatever we can to support each stage, and to protect each stage from attempts to suppress its individual contribution to the human life cycle. Thus, we need to be wary, for example, of attempts to thwart a young child’s need to play through the establishment high-pressure formal academic preschools. We should protect the wisdom of aged from elder abuse. We need to do what we can to help our adolescents at risk. We need to advocate for prenatal education and services for poor mothers, and support safe and healthy birthing methods in third world countries. We ought to take the same attitude toward nurturing the human life cycle as we do toward saving the environment from global warming and industrial pollutants. For by supporting each stage of the human life cycle, we will help to ensure that all of its members are given care and helped to blossom to their fullest degree.
Adapted from Thomas Armstrong, The Human Odyssey: Navigating the Twelve Stages of Life. New York: Sterling, 2008.