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stage of our lives. The car accompanies and accelerates the act of separating from one’s parents, reinforces and supports individualism and ego development, and equips youths’ natural belief in unlimited possibilities. Even if it’s a hand-me-down or a jalopy, our first car becomes tangible evidence of our autonomy and our independence— the expression of our Hero and Explorer yearnings. In many respects, the car is the first “place of our own” as well. Many young people sit in their cars for spells, savoring the feeling of being in their own space. To help shed further light on the deep meaning of cars and driving, Margaret tapped into the expertise of cultural anthropologist Grant McCracken while she was at Young & Rubicam. McCracken wrote, Americans mark their rise to maturity by the possession of a driver’s license. In fact, in our culture, there is no other rite of passage. Some cultures ask their children to spend a week of hardship in the desert. Others put on a ceremony in which the child is covered with paint and feathers. In our culture, we do not have rituals of this kind. In our culture, we have cars. The logic of the car-ritual is clear enough. We are tested by the state. If we “pass,” we are endowed with the right to have the self dramatically increased. We get our license and, with it, access to a car, and with this we get new freedom from our parents and new, almost adult, powers of control. If we fail, nothing happens. We remain immature, “just a kid.” But, what is worse, the self must remain as it is, unaugmented by the powers of the machine. McCracken went on, This rite of passage is about mastery. The test here is to see if we have mastered the car, the measure of our maturity. The question is “Have we gained enough mastery to be given more mastery?” Our rite of passage is about assessing whether we have grown sufficiently to take on the one instrument in our culture that will expand our mastery dramatically. The question is not just “Can you drive the car?” but “Are you ready for an adult self? Do you have enough mastery to deserve more mastery?”

Profile for Lewis Lafontaine

Mack, Margaret - Hero and Outlaw Archetype  

Mack, Margaret - Hero and Outlaw Archetype  

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