Friday, July 20, 2012


Neoteny is a term used by evolutionary biologists to refer to the tendency of a species to retain juvenile traits well into adulthood. Stephen Jay Gould felt that neoteny was a morphological characteristic of home sapiens. But the term also resonates beyond biology. For instance affluent Americans experience a longer adolescence than their less privileged counterparts in other cultures. The responsibilities of marriage and career are often delayed since they're not totally necessary for survival. Affluence leads to choice. Because one has time and money, one looks for the best mate and the most rewarding career, with subsistence and concerns about the actual survival of the species becoming secondary to self-realization. Movies from Mike Nichols’ The Graduate to Todd Solondz’s recently released Dark Horse reflect a condition of surfeit that perpetuates regression and retards developmental growth. This is not to glamorize poverty or the plight of those who endure subsistence level conditions. It’s to recognize that the paradox of increased productivity is that it inevitably leads to a kind of entropy. The same attrition  occurs when people use computers and calculators which take away the ability to write, think and calculate. Homo Ludens, man at play, is finally so infantilized by his freedom that he loses the evolutionary sweepstakes, sharing the fate of once vibrant languages like Yiddish, Ladin and Ladino which whose existence is threatened from lack of use.

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