30 January 2009
The Trouble with Youth
Aristotle said of the young that they have exalted notions, because they have not yet been humbled by life or learnt its necessary limitations.
St. Augustine lamented his own youth in the same regard.
And the Preacher warned the young, "Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth."
Unfortunately we all must go through youth, assuming we don't die in the meantime, and thus it is practically inevitable that we learn the lessons of humility the hard way.
I know I did.
I was musing the other night on how differently I view my life and my world today than I viewed it in my youth. Then, I always had a goal, an aspiration, a plan, a hope. These things kept me going. And when high hopes were dashed, I found myself feeling rather crushed. Still I plodded on, holding on to my dreams, thinking that some day God would bestow on me the glory I secretly coveted. And at the next disappointment the blow was more crushing than at the first. Though I didn't dare think it in these terms, what I meant to wonder in my misery was, When would God let me have my glory?
If He had, I would doubtless still be dancing around that calf today. It's hard enough to deal with pride on an ordinary day; the imp would have become a behemoth if my hopes had been realized back then. High hopes in youth are common, and come in varying strains. What is dangerous, and could be deadly, is when those hopes are realized too soon, or, in some cases, at all.
These days I look back on those perils, and I sometimes wonder, what in the world was I thinking?
There's still a lot to learn in this regard for a middling man; the last thing I want to become in my geriatric years is someone who thinks he's wise in his own conceits, who has nothing left to learn, and whom no one can teach.
And so it is my prayer, and I recommend the same prayer to the young, that I may learn to seek above all other things the kingdom of heaven rather than any earthly kingdoms. Those visions of earthly glory, whatever they are, are illusions, every one. They're mirages. Or worse, they're the devil's disguises. They aren't worth it.
So if you can't decide on a confirmation verse for a particular junior catechumen, here's one that will always be appropriate: Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth, while the evil days come not, nor the years draw nigh, when thou shalt say, I have no pleasure in them.