It’s interesting to think how much we’re valuing youth – the innocent potential, perhaps, of a fresh start and a future. How greatly we’re prizing those attributes when, really, it’s only a matter of time before youth becomes age and those qualities fade. As if life itself is a process of waiting for our value to lose currency, to trickle away or drop off a cliff to the point where society is no longer interested in our existence.
What is that? Because, surely, it doesn’t make much sense to not value human life in all its forms (Notes One). Why are we casting such a strong spotlight onto youth when, inevitably, it’ll then turn to those who follow shortly after, leaving everyone else in the dark?
It just seems a funny way to be living – valuing intrinsic, unearned qualities rather than the experience, effort and insight we all gain in life. Why are we tolerating a system that diminishes each person’s worth simply because of the time we’ve been alive? Value apparently being assigned to the fresh, new, untrammelled state of humanity rather than the difficult process of life itself (Notes Two).
Of course, there is great potential in youth: any direction can be chosen, any dream pursued, any mistake hopefully avoided. It is like a fresh chance to do differently, fix what we feel was mistaken and set others on better paths. At a time where Western society seems to be going off the rails – idealism falling by the wayside of sorely tested social values – it’s perhaps only natural we focus on setting things straight for those coming after.
But life’s surely a path of choices, limiting our options, pouring our energy into those things that matter to us and learning as we go. Is there no perceived value to that actual journey? Are we all living in shadows cast by the loss of youth? Having prepared ourselves and chosen our path, are we settling in to become increasingly irrelevant and devalued with each passing day? Is that what life is? Diminishing worth.
It’s bizarre to me that we would value the preparation stage over the life itself. Life makes us who we are with all we have to offer: the character we’ve developed, knowledge we’ve refined, relationships we’ve forged, things we’ve built, strength and perspective we’ve gained. Isn’t each stage of life something to be valued? Each person’s journey from dreams and potential through to the reality of bringing things to life (Notes Three).
I’m not sure what the myth of youth is trying to achieve, but it seems to be setting us all up for a strange sort of life. At what point is anyone going to be happy to be deemed irrelevant, worthless, a burden? It must all come down to the question of how much we value one another or the fact of life itself. Could it not be that a more inclusive, realistic attitude to human existence might serve us all a whole lot better?
Notes and References:
Note 1: Old meets new, sharing insight
Note 1: “Wisdom” by Andrew Zuckerman
Note 1: Age, image & self worth
Note 1: Worthless, or priceless?
Note 2: Culture as what we relate to
Note 2: Language and values
Note 2: What you’re left with
Note 3: What it is to be human
Note 3: The struggle with being alive
Note 3: Absolute or relative value
Note 3: The worth of each life
Related to all this, Plato & “The Republic” talked further about the importance of youth as a foundation for society.