Friday, March 9, 2012

Being Young

“Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, "Do it again"; and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, "Do it again" to the sun; and every evening, "Do it again" to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we.” 
― G.K. Chesterton 

There's a certain charm about being young.  It seems no matter who you ask, there is some nostalgia for their youth, some glistening memory of an earlier time in which they lived a different life.  Whether it be an relative carelessness, blissful idealism, brimming potentiality, or any other of the plethora of reasons people give to justify their admiration of youth, its undeniable that there is something beautiful, yes, even magical, about being young.  I sat today, after listening to "Forever Young" and "We are Young" on a 3 day repeat cycle (When I like a song, I like the crap out of it), I thought to myself, "What is so enchanting about youth?"  So, I decided to blog:

The mid-jump picture has become a trademark of
 young people with a camera and little photographic talent...
To me, youth is beautiful because it is innocent.  The younger we are, the less burdened, less troubled, and less  grave we are.  Age brings concern, it brings grey hairs and wrinkled brows and stern expressions.  Find some jovial youth, you will not see these things.  You will see innocent bliss.  The young enjoy a degree of freedom and exuberance that the old don't have the luxury of enjoying.  

Some may call it naive, with the tone that it is something lamentable.  I disagree.  Actually, I downright reject the notion that youth is lamentable.  In fact, I think it is lamentable that so many elders have forgotten their youth.  Think of it this way:  Look at the evils of the world:  genocide, abortion, slavery, poverty, etc.  How many of these evils were ever driven by the young?  None.  Now, some may say "Joe, kids can't start wars, kids can't enslave people, your example sucks..."  Actually, that's my point.  Kids can't.  Or, more accurately, they don't.  They won't.  Kids don't grasp for the same things as adults.  They don't really want money, power, prestige, or pleasure, or at least not until an adult has exposed them to these things.  No, at their purest state, kids love freedom, they love life, and they are happy with even the simplest of things (I typically rejected most of my fancier toys in favor of things like Legos.  Or dirt.  I played with a lot of dirt.)  The world is an adventure to be explored, not a conquest to be dominated.  

Disapproving old guy disapproves.
 Shame on your youthful creativity.
The old, the adults of the world, they don't understand the simple wisdom in such things.  Adults have always bought into a much more cramped cosmology.  They see the world as an enemy, as a conquest, as a beast to be tamed, and fight their whole lives to tame it.  The adult has lost much of the original sense of wonder with which the child approaches the world.  When I was a child, I walked in my woods at home, and it was a world in its own.  One day, it'd be a war zone, in the next day, it'd be unexplored wilderness, the next day, a racing course.  A stick was a sword, a gun, a flag, or a tool.  Now, my woods is a woods.  A stick is a stick.  Mud is mud.  And it makes for a very boring world.  Indeed, age may have made me wiser, but it certainly hasn't made my life any more interesting, or any more creative.

Our culture has, ironically enough, praised youth while pushing adulthood, and has made a very awkward ideology because of it.  We hear the praises of freedom and enjoyment of "life", but we've equated "life" to the obtaining of things for ourselves, things like pleasure, power, prestige, glory, honor, and wealth.  Fools we are.  These are the things that start wars, ruin families, and corrupt the beautiful.  It is because we've deluded ourselves with the idea that happiness is something eventual and not something actual that we find ourselves constantly faced in the evils and sadnesses of life.  We've tried and tried again to rebuild Babel when we really ought to have been perfectly happy exploring the beauty of Eden.  

Our culture praises youth, but it has warped youth into a terribly premature adulthood (especially in regards to sexuality).  When we were 5, the girls (those that didn't have cooties) were beautiful princesses worth fighting the terrible evils of the dragons to rescue or protect in a great act of gusto and chivalry.  Today, most men are more like the dragon and less like the knight.  We've lost our innocence, the great and marvelous sense of wonder about the world, and instead, we've found our world shrunk into a realm boredom at best, a prison of fear at the worst.
Nothing says "You're beautiful just the way
you are" like caking makeup on a 3 yr old.
Even worse, our culture's "praise" of youth has legitimized, and yes, even applauded, the destruction of youth.  At the humorous end of this spectrum we find "Toddlers and Tiaras" (Living vicariously much there, mom?), and at the ghastly end of the spectrum, we find abortion, the notion that one person's youth must not continue, so that another person's "youth" can never end.  Our culture has made a monster, seeking to infuse the stupidity of adulthood into the genius of youth, and we have a generation of fools to show for it.

Being young is marvelous.  Being innocent, imaginative, and creative give us a taste of man's original state. This is what Christ saw when he welcomed the children.  This is what the Church must see in its vision for itself and the world.  As the old adage says, "Growing old is mandatory, growing up is optional."  We have to resist the urge to let go of our childlike innocence.  Our world is vast and beautiful!  Our (pure) imagination is a map to exploring it!  Rather than seeking to conquer or compete with the world, we ought to find within it signs of the Divine, milestones to goodness, truth, and beauty.  Life was always meant to be adventurous, and we were always meant to be young.  Even as we grow older and wiser, we cannot let our wisdom become our foolishness by letting it curtail our sense of wonderment and awe.  As we get older and gain wisdom, knowledge, and experience, we must use these things to only further the adventure.  

One does not find heaven by counting beans, nor does he reach God by building Babel.  No, as Christ tells us in Luke’s Gospel “I give you praise, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for although you have hidden these things from the wise and the learned you have revealed them to the childlike.”  It is in being childlike that we come to see God.  It is in the innocence and wonderment of youth that we see the world the way God made it:  always new, always exciting, always young.  Ultimately, it shows us something fascinating:That God is young too.
So is the Pope... in a certain sense.

And so, I urge you:  Be young!  Even if you are old, be young!  Have enthusiasm and wonderment about the world around you.  Life is an adventure and Heaven is for the explorer, not the conqueror.

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