the young and the restless

"This world demands the qualities of youth: not a time of life, but a state of mind, a temper of the will; a quality of imagination, a predominance of courage over timidity, of the appetite for adventure over the life of ease." -R Kennedy

“When the Greeks said, ‘Whom the Gods love, die young’ they probably meant, as Lord Sankey suggested, that those favored by the gods, stay young until the day they die; young and playful."

I was recently referred to a site called realage where you're asked a series of questions about your health history, lifestyle, and behavioral patterns in order to ascertain your real age. And I'm happy to report that I clocked in at 16.7- about 8 years shy of my chronological age, as registered by the state and by my Mom.

There's something about youthfulness, isn't there? There's some mysterious and alluring quality about it. And while we may be accustomed to feeling its effect on us, or only reminiscence of it- it nonetheless remains on our radar. We talk about how this or that experience brought out what we call our "inner-child" or how someone or something made us feel young again. But what does the propensity toward such stirrings suggest? And why are our fondest memories of youth?

What is it about adult development that quietly, creeps in and systematically begins chipping away at our sense of awe, wonder, freedom, or the joy that was once so readily available to us? Youthful perspectives are referenced throughout the Gospels. We're told that we must be like a little child to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Jesus shows preference to kids and asks that the little ones be allowed near Him. The idea of re-birth is used time and time again to signal entrance into eternal life. And come to mention it, even that idea, eternity, has a kind of agelessness to it.

It would seem that in many ways our culture agrees with God's mandate as well. "Oh, to be young again" we lament, reminding our kids that undoubtedly, "these are the best years of your life" and to "never grow old".

So what is this mysterious quality?

What is it about youthfulness that God decides is absolutely requisite to unending life with Him? What does it mean to be young at heart? Could it be that there are parts of the soul, only known to us when our cynical and hardened old hearts are returned at last to their wonderfully imaginative abilities?

I think the late G.K. Chesterton, the "prince of paradox", has an illuminating take on the subject:

"...It might be true that the sun rises regularly because he never gets tired of rising. His routine might be due, not to a lifelessness, but to a rush of life. The thing I mean can be seen, for instance, in children, when they find some game or joke that they specially enjoy. A child kicks his legs rhythmically through excess, not absence, of life. 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. The repetition in
Nature may not be a mere recurrence; it may be a theatrical ENCORE. Heaven may ENCORE the bird who laid an egg. If the human being conceives and brings forth a human child instead of bringing forth a fish, or a bat, or a griffin, the reason may not be that we are fixed in an animal fate without life or purpose. It may be that our little tragedy has touched the gods, that they admire it from their starry galleries, and that at the end of every human drama man is called again and again before the curtain. Repetition may go on for millions of years, by mere choice, and at any instant it may stop. Man may stand on the earth generation after generation, and yet each birth be his positively last appearance.

This was my first conviction; made by the shock of my childish emotions meeting the modern creed in mid-career. I had always vaguely felt facts to be miracles in the sense that they are wonderful: now I began to think them miracles in the stricter sense that they were WILFUL. I mean that they were, or might be, repeated exercises of some will. In short, I had
always believed that the world involved magic: now I thought that perhaps it involved a magician. And this pointed a profound emotion always present and sub-conscious; that this world of ours has some purpose; and if there is a purpose, there is a person. I had always felt life first as a story: and if there is a story there is a story-teller."


Jack Mackinnon said...

As I (we) get a little older and, more importantly, become more used to the routine of post-school life it's an encouraging thought to consider that God does not want us to grow mundane. A re-occuring fear of mine is that with spiritual maturity comes a personality drain. Growing up I always had an image of "Christian men" as boring, nice guys. I suppose also that my affinity for Madden 2007 is really just a sign that I am ever more close to the youth that God desires for me.

Donald Hart said...

The comment on high school or college that "these will be the best years of your life" has always been one I've rejected. Believing each new phase of life brings it's own unique experience, while joys and memories of a previous phase need not be abandoned. However, at times I find it frighteningly easy to look back on certain periods of my life and wish I had the happiness that my memory has convinced me I possessed in that time. This post is a good reminder to approach each phase of life with a youthful excitement, building off experiences along the way.

Shannon said...

Da-vid! I had no idea you were exploring the world or blogging. You definately have a gift for writing and a wonderful depth. I can't wait to see where this will take you in the future!

S. Gilio said...

Perhaps, we as humans were created for a different reality than we exist in, a reality before sin. It is in our childhood that we live closest to this natural state. This is not to say that we as children do not sin, but as children we have not accumulated the weight of sin in our lives to the extent that we have latter in life. As we grow we become increasingly responsible for our sinful decisions and the decisions of others (because every decision has direct and indirect effects on every life). The added responsibility arises because with every new decision one is using previous experience to address a future decision/response. Therefore, the weight of each decision continues to be magnified by the additional decisions that have a relationship with the previous. It is like an infinite multiplication table of life circumstances and decisions. The challenge of life is to live as God intended us despite the disease that lives within all of us (mistaken, sinful, fallen desires), and to not let the weight of multiplied sin distract us from our original intent.

Idhrendur said...

Our propensity to classify what is familiar is so deadly. Because then we stop observing what is around us. There IS magic in the world, and a great magician who ever creates. Yay God!