When I was younger, I would have remembered in a shot, but today I had to look it up and feel sheepish -- recalling for sure who it was who said, "Youth is wasted on the young." And of course it was one of my once-favorite guys, Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw. Does anyone remember him these days? It feels to me as if the world is getting stupider and stupider, but if I can't remember who said, "Youth is wasted on the young," who's the stupid one?
"Youth is wasted on the young" is one of those pointed, smug and wishful bon mots that nevertheless rings a bell with those who are of a certain age: Boy! If I knew then, when I had the energy, what I know now, when I don't ... well, that would have been truly kool. What a waste!
But setting aside the nod-nod, wink-wink acid aptness of the observation ... I wonder. The nut of it all resides in the idea of waste -- that in youth, so much time and energy are frittered away in worthless pastimes, self-important and uninformed efforts. And there is a sigh of regret -- what a pity.
But today it strikes me that the very function of youth is to be wasteful. How could anyone ascend to whatever wisdom is contained in "youth is wasted on the young" without having first indulged in the idiocies of youth? You gotta be stupid before you get smart.
And beyond that, if youth is seen today as having been riddled with wasteful opinions and beliefs and actions, what makes the observer imagine that the pinnacle from which s/he observes does not, as well, contain more than a dollop of blinkered waste?
In short, if "youth is wasted on the young" I think it might equally be noted that "old age is wasted on the elderly." In what stupidities do the elderly engage that mimic the wastefulness of a rambunctious youth? Youth may be accused of an inability and inexperience of wider vision -- a lifestyle infused with street smarts and thoughtfulness. Youth is blinkered (from the august pinnacle of age), but, seriously, what blinkers do the elderly wear with such confidence ... what is it that they are missing and yet proud of, even as youth was once proud of its narrow-gauge bliss?
Well, the eyes cannot see the eyes. No one can know where they are right now. Their certainties and beliefs all relate to the past ... the past which was riddled with wastefulness if you recall. Youth, age, it makes no difference -- no one can know where they are right now any more than the eyes can see the eyes.
This leads me to suggest that somehow any attentive person might wish to consider: Nothing is ever wasted and the very notion of waste is purely a matter of self-importance. It is this self-importance that deserves examination.
Now might be a good time to start.
Don't waste your time.
My favorite Shaw quote is, "Don't quote". Perhaps that bit of zen touches on why he was one of the greatest minds I've ever read.ReplyDelete
Serendipitously, or perhaps not, this poem was included in an email I received this morning. It was allegedly written by an old man who died in a geriatric ward in Australia and left "nothing" behind:ReplyDelete
Cranky Old Man
What do you see nurses? . . . . .What do you see?
What are you thinking . . . . . when you're looking at me?
A cranky old man, . . . .. .not very wise,
Uncertain of habit .. . . . . . . . with faraway eyes?
Who dribbles his food ... . .. . . . . and makes no reply.
When you say in a loud voice . . . . .. 'I do wish you'd try!'
Who seems not to notice . . . . .the things that you do.
And forever is losing . . . . . . . . . . A sock or shoe?
Who, resisting or not .. . . . . . . . . . . lets you do as you will,
With bathing and feeding . . . . . .The long day to fill?
Is that what you're thinking? . . . . . . Is that what you see?
Then open your eyes, nurse . . . . . . you're not looking at me.
I'll tell you who I am . . . . . . . As I sit here so still,
As I do at your bidding, . . . . . . as I eat at your will.
I'm a small child of Ten . . . . . . . with a father and mother,
Brothers and sisters .. . . . . . . . who love one another
A young boy of Sixteen . . . . . with wings on his feet
Dreaming that soon now . . . . ... ... . a lover he'll meet
A groom soon at Twenty . . . . ... . . my heart gives a leap.
Remembering, the vows .. . . . . . that I promised to keep.
At Twenty-Five, now . . . . . ... . I have young of my own.
Who need me to guide . . . . And a secure happy home.
A man of Thirty . . . . . . . . . My young now grown fast,
Bound to each other . . . . . . . With ties that should last.
At Forty, my young sons .. . . . . have grown and are gone,
But my woman is beside me . . . . . . . to see I don't mourn.
At Fifty, once more, . . ... . . . ..Babies play 'round my knee,
Again, we know children . . . . . . . My loved one and me.
Dark days are upon me . . . . . . ... . My wife is now dead.
I look at the future ... .. . . . . . . . . . . . I shudder with dread.
For my young are all rearing . . . . . . young of their own.
And I think of the years . . .. .. . . . And the love that I've known.
I'm now an old man . . . . .. . . . and nature is cruel.
It's jest to make old age . . . . .. . . look like a fool.
The body, it crumbles .. . . . ... . . . . .. grace and vigour, depart.
There is now a stone .. . . . . .. . where I once had a heart.
But inside this old carcass . . . .. A young man still dwells,
And now and again . . . .. . . . my battered heart swells
I remember the joys . . . . . . . . . .. . I remember the pain.
And I'm loving and living . . . . .. . . . .. . . . . life over again.
I think of the years . all too few . . .. . . . gone too fast.
And accept the stark fact . . . . . . . . that nothing can last.
So open your eyes, people . . . . . . . . open and see.
Not a cranky old man . Look closer . . . . see . .. . . .... . ME!!