30 August 2013

Before the Silver Cord is Snapped

Perhaps too much has already been said about being young.  It seems to have been considered from every possible angle:  As unmitigated blessing, as inevitable struggle, as joyride, as travail, as triumphal emergence, as process of disillusionment.  One might question how many universal statements can be made about it since its environment shapes it so deeply.  Further, there is an apparent irony in studying it.  Those who have a large enough perspective to grasp the vagaries and essences of youth are usually past it; they may have dimming memory of how it felt encountered firsthand.  Those in the midst of youth have vivid, abundant experiences of it for data, but often lack the perspective to fit their experience into a large enough context.

It seems to me that a similar irony exists when the young examine any of life's "big issues."  At the time of life most formative and most crucial in the examination of life's deep considerations, the young are often (due to their youth and lack of broad experience) ill-equipped to wrestle well with these very things.  This seems proof enough that younger people need - not simply benefit from - the consistent involvement of caring older people in their lives, and I would hold tenaciously to this principle.  But let me speak for a moment of how this irony affects me and, especially, this blog.

I am still in my youth (suffice it to say I'm college-age) and find in myself many of youth's limitations.  Yet for years already I have found myself unsatisfied by investing my deepest thought or effort into anything shy of ultimate questions of reality and living.  I have a philosophical bent (and always have), but I imagine many of my fellow young people, whether or not they enjoy academics per se, feel a similar urgency in grasping reality.  I need to think through challenging questions, and having thought through them to the best of my present ability, to enter into conversation about them.  But this puts me in a dilemma.  I believe in - and feel - the human need for wise, tested, true answers to life's questions, yet I find in myself the desire to join the conversation before I can contribute much more than a few hard-won observations and numerous (possibly unoriginal) questions.

Youth is wisest when it is humble.  I felt it was important to say these things before I plunged into topics that many older and wiser people have considered with more insight and grace than I can ever hope to muster at this stage in my life. It is only because I hope that someday I will be one of those older and wiser people that I offer these thoughts.  Let me encourage my fellow young people to do the same:  Join life's great conversation now, whether you have much, little, or even nothing to say.  Come to listen and grow, to coordinate pieces of knowledge, and to appreciate the wisdom of those who have trekked these roads before us.  Never give up the pursuit of truth; never allow realism to sour into cynicism; never let matters too light to build a life on rob you of a sure foundation.  Strive to receive the mentoring of the wise so that someday you can be a wise mentor.  If this doesn't seem to us to be living life to its fullest, we have not yet grasped the terrifying gravity of living.

"Remember also your Creator in the days of your youth,
before the evil days come and the years draw near of which you will say,
'I have no pleasure in them;' before the sun and the light
and the moon and the stars are darkened and the clouds
return after the rain, in the day when the keepers of the house tremble,
and the strong men are bent, and the grinders cease
because they are few, and those who look through the windows
are dimmed, and the doors on the street are shut -
when the sound of the grinding is low, and one rises up
at the sound of a bird, and all the daughters of song are brought low -
they are afraid also of what is high, and terrors are in the way;
the almond tree blossoms, the grasshopper drags itself along,
and desire fails, because man is going to his eternal home,
and the mourners to about the streets -
before the silver cord is snapped, or the golden bowl
is broken, or the pitcher is shattered at the fountain,
or the wheel broken at the cistern, and the dust returns
to the earth as it was, and the spirit returns to God who gave it.*
Solomon, c. 10th Century BC

*Ecclesiastes 12:1-7 ESV

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