We Were Young

Entry by: Godai41

14th August 2015
We "were" young?

Really? Why not we "are" young?

The lure of some of Wordsworth’s, Housman’s and Dylan Thomas’ words
resides in the now of young.

Housman admits the mathematical limits of human mobility and litheness but also declares the virtues of moving through the woodlands hung with snow.

Thomas exhorts his father’s spirit not to go gently even into death’s good night.

And Wordsworth strives to convince us that all children, not only the actual
youth but those who retain that youthfulness in later years, know more than others.

The three writers envision, laud, and portray a truly eternal present, not just in languages but in life itself. They do not define or measure the life and spirit of youngness solely by the early years one exists.

Their laudable words and visions inspire one to open the when of young quandary, not to close the question.

Of course, no one can alter the reality of the limited time the physical presence of youth exists, yet some precious domain of youth can persist through many eras of people’s existence.

An anecdote relating to the take of John Quincy Adams on this other dimension of youth, recalled by a member of the U.S. House of Representatives, connects to this nuance of perceptions concerning if we “were” or “are” young.

“How is John Quincy Adams today?” a friend asked the former president on his 81st birthday.

“Quite well, thank you,” Adams replied. “John Quincy Adams is quite well. But the house in which he lives is becoming quite dilapidated. Time and the seasons have nearly destroyed it. It is tottering on its foundations and the roof is worn quite thin. Yes, the old tenement is becoming quite uninhabitable and I fear John Quincy Adams will have to move out of it quite soon. But he himself is quite well, thank you, quite well.”

People’s actions, we may recall, often show their ability to decide not to kill or even squash their youngness. Hitchhiking from Dublin to Galway as I did probably won’t keep one physically warm in the August! Cold ☺ (snap on another sweater, eh?), but may nourish and re-awaken one to the spirit of one’s youngness. Similarly, don marquis’ moth in his “The Lesson of the Moth” recalls how humans themselves tend to limit the time of their youthfulness:

we are like human beings
used to be before they became
too civilized to enjoy themselves

Learning another language has an immense capacity to renew or birth a person’s unrecognized, undiscovered, or nascent youth. For starters, the new language learned may feel more compatible with some ideas and feelings the learner has never found it easy to reveal or express. The new language words act as magnets drawing out such ideas and feelings. Everyone experiences finding a word in the previously “foreign” language that perfectly states the thought or sensation he or she found no fitting word in his or her so-called native language. Jacques Prévert may have exhorted himself to remain patient as he hounded his inners to find “semblables” in his poetic line “Sont mes semblables.” Would he have found peace knowing “fellow dudes” as an English mate for his wording? Discovering new wording, yes, new language, takes on life experience. In the language ,“in the destructive element” (Conrad, Lord Jim), one immerses and simultaneously grows and re-grows one’s youngness now.

Even in middle age or beyond those employing a unique sense of youngish humor even in miniscule doses redefine “young” as a state of mind rather than a limited period of time. Such a perspective resides in the action of the middle-aged visitor one summer evening to a clothing shop. Outside the store sit several mannequins delicately clothed in the fashionable suits of the time, their plastic hands outstretched. The middle-aged dude places a dime handout in one mannequin’s pleading hand. Those about, young, middle-young, and older-young, giggle.

Youth begins. Youth endures. It may begin with Tupac’s Dear Mama kicking out her 17-year-old to the streets but the son retains his ebullience and chants it: “It's a struggle everyday, gotta roll on/And there's no way I can pay you back/But my plan is to show you that I understand/You are appreciated.”

The now young knowing they are approaching a soon-to-come end of life often enunciate their youngness most precisely. Consider Daniel from Salon de Provence, France. He entered a new-found friend’s life via internet. A first meeting of his and the newfound friend’s families took place in Avignon, moved on to Narbonne. The newfound friend’s son had fallen and broken a leg in Barcelona and now maneuvered temporarily in a wheelchair. The two families journeyed for a swim in the Roman aqueduct near Pont du Gard. For a time the young-single-digit age-boy silently watched others swim in the intense heat. Daniel, recently diagnosed with incurable cancer, suddenly lifted himself and with the boy in his arms waded in, gently holding the young, now smiling lad, in the cool, refreshing water. We are young.

One does not need to write poetry, become a U.S. President, hitchhike, learn a language different than one’s native language, rap, approach death, or even concur with existentialist beliefs to perpetually update the now of young.

The “when” of young, then, may reside not merely in a designated period of time in anyone’s life but within a fervent belief in life as motion.

We "are"—not only "were"—alive and, yes, young!