Youth

Once in my junior year, I saw on the personal website of a friend called Steven having the following excerpt from This Is the Life by Annie Dillard:

People look at the sky and at the other animals. They make beautiful objects, beautiful sounds, beautiful motions of their bodies beating drums in lines. They pray; they toss people in peat bogs; they help the sick and injured; they pierce their lips, their noses, ears; they make the same mistakes despite religion, written language, philosophy, and science; they build, they kill, they preserve, they count and figure, they boil the pot, they keep the embers alive; they tell their stories and gird themselves.

Will knowledge you experience directly make you a Buddhist? Must you forfeit excitement per se? To what end?

Say you have seen something. You have seen an ordinary bit of what is real, the infinite fabric of time that eternity shoots through, and time’s soft-skinned people working and dying under slowly shifting stars.

Then what?

Good question! “Then what?” I guess thinking about the meaning of life is a meaningless thing per se. I occassionally feel quite bored, lacking intellectual challenges. If we see ourselves as patients, we could cure ourselves rather than thinking about these far-fetching questions. You lack love? Love people surrounding you, and they will love you back. You lack challenges to solve and are buried in daily labor? Find some interesting math and coding problems! There are tons of them out there! You feel tired? Well, sleep, and wake up to lead an exciting life, rather than wasting time on stupid films!

Of course, I didn’t think of any of these back then, but told him, “Wow, this is deep! If I were to build my own website, I will have the article of Youth by Samuel Ullman.”

So here it is:

Youth is not a time of life; it is a state of mind; it is not a matter of rosy cheeks, red lips and supple knees; it is a matter of the will, a quality of the imagination, a vigor of the emotions; it is the freshness of the deep springs of life.

Youth means a tempermental predominance of courage over timidity of the appetite, for adventure over the love of ease. This often exists in a man of 60 more than a boy of 20. Nobody grows old merely by a number of years. We grow old by deserting our ideals. Years may wrinkle the skin, but to give up enthusiasm wrinkles the soul. Worry, fear, self-distrust bows the heart and turns the spirits back to dust.

Whether 60 or 16, there is in every human being’s heart the lure of wonder, the unfailing childlike appetite of what’s next and the joy of the game of living. In the center of your heart and my heart there is a wireless station: so long as it receives messages of beauty, hope, cheer, courage and power from men and from the Infinite, so long are you young.

When the aerials are down, and your spirit is covered with snows of cynicism and the ice of pessimism, then you are grown old, even at 20, but as long as your aerials are up, to catch waves of optimism, there is hope you may die young at 80.

So I want to document my youth here on my own site.

Created on Jan 1, 1970 | Updated on Jan 1, 1970