(I was just reading a series of comments on one of the few weblists I subscribe to -- don't even ask because I'm not quite ready to tell you: heaving porn it wasn't -- and some young fella got involved in a discussion and his elders came down on him like a ton of bricks. Before I could reply the younker came back with a remark about old farts who didn't know what they were talking about. A slow smile spread over my lived-in face) :
This reminds me of how we used to annoy our own parents and the elders of our time. And did we ever -- I came of age in the late 60s. What goes around comes around. Time to put some manners on these cheeky kids -- yeah, right. They think they know it all. So did we. Nobody does. That's the great mystery and tragedy of life.
But things are sharper and more intense when you are young, when the world is still fresh, before the responsibilities and the consequences kick in. I think that's why we have such sympathy for people who burn out or get blown away while they are still in the opening stages of their lives: Romeo (16) and Juliet (14); Keats in his twenties; Rupert Brooke and Wilfrid Owen, poets of the Great War, also in their 20s; Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin and Jim Morrison; all the 19-year old soldiers (avg. age) who got killed in Vietnam -- and now in the Iraqi desert re-run of that nasty colonial war. They departed in their prime, too soon, but avoided all the doubts and physical failings of advancing age. I think sticking around and surviving is better, but that's a personal view: I should be dead ten times over but I ain't ... and I can't say I'm unhappy about that. For now.
Youth is evanescent. We all pass through it but none can hang on to it, except, perhaps the dead in the memory of their friends and family. As Laurence Binyon, recording the destruction of a generation in the First World War so memorably put it:
They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.
More than a century before this, in 1789, Wordsworth captured the atmosphere of the early days of the French Revolution:
Bliss it was to be alive
But to be young was very heaven
And this sense of youthful fervour (and fever) always reminds me of the late 1960s between the Monterrey (Calif.) International Pop Music Festival in the summer of 1967 (Big Brother and the Holding Company with Janis Joplin, the Jimi Hendrix Experience, the Who, Otis Redding -- they all had their break-out moment here; the first serious showcase of "serious" rock music and the era's best peace/love/dove hippie fest) and the Beatles White Album which came out in the Fall of 1968. Wow!! That was one of the best times ever to be alive and to be young. But like the French Revolution things soon went rapidly downhill ... and we ended up with the pretty crappy 70s and 80s (and 90s?) ... well, downhill in terms of intensity and optimism and hope. All that stuff disappeared. We ended up with Nixon and Reagan and Bozo the Clown, liars and killers all. Clinton starts to look good by comparison. So does Peanut Carter.
I'm not knocking the young. What's the point? I'd like to be young again myself. On second thoughts, I'm not so sure I'd want to be young in THIS generation. Nobody can pick and choose. Sometimes you luck out.