Everyone always speaks of that ‘thing’ that seems to go away as people age – that joyous outlook on life, that sense of expectation and wonder, that feeling of excitement about what could come next. The essence of this youthful mentality – of this ‘sense of life’ – lies in the meaning behind that one word: could.
‘Could’ represents the possible and encompasses all that men may dream and more. Unfortunately, many people wind up replacing ‘could’ with a different word in their hearts and in their minds. It is this replacement in the souls of men that causes them to lose that ‘youthfulness’ and begin down the slow progression of despair – and that word of despair which does the replacing is: ‘is’.
‘Is’ represents the ‘here and now’, the short-range, the concrete, without respect to the future or to what may come: “It just is”. ‘Is’, as a primary in the souls of men, becomes an excuse to live ever-more in the short-range, to ‘thrive’ on the surface (as if that were possible), to ignore causes and evade effects, to shrink one’s mind, one’s desires, and one’s life down into bite-size chunks – chunks to be consumed, expelled, and quickly forgotten.
But such is not the way that Man is intended to live. Man is not a common animal designed to live on the short-range and the concrete bound; he is not (or at least is not meant to be) enslaved to mere perception and range-of-the-moment reactions. He, among all living things on earth, has a mind – a mind with which he may abstract the essence of things in order to form concepts. And he lives in the realm of the conceptual, in which he is to deal with the nature of things – not the way things happen to be, but the way things are in their essence. And in grasping the essence of a thing, Man is capable of unlocking all of the potential of that thing: all that it could be.
And this – even though we never could have described it in this way – is that ‘magical’ feeling that we all had when we were young. We were eager to learn – and we didn’t just want random facts, we wanted to go deep. Why ‘is’ this thing like that? And why ‘is’ that like that? ‘Why’ was that glorious word with which we desired to conquer the world (and with which we usually only managed to annoy our parents). The reason we asked ‘why?’ is because we were after the essence of things – because it is with the essence of things that we (Men – not just children) can play! It is by the grace of understanding the essence of things that we can unlock all that a thing could be, and once unlocked, we could get on with the exhilarating adventure of making it so!
This is what so many sadly lose when they claim to have lost their ‘youthful spirit’. It was not some magical or ‘naive’ outlook on life. It was the essence of life – of Man’s life: the desire and ability to apply one’s mind unrelentingly to all of reality. It’s not that they ‘grew-up’. They shrank inward, inward away from the nature of things. It was not that they ‘matured’. They retarded their minds and crippled their souls. But the good news is that it is never too late to ‘get it back’. Depending on how much self-crippling has been done, it may be extremely difficult (though *always* infinitely worth it!). All one must do is remember that the truth – the deepest and greatest truths which are discovered in the essence of things – is never to be feared by those who genuinely seek it.
Do you call me a ‘youthful idealist’? Yes! And I’m proud of it! I hope to be even more of a ‘youthful idealist’ the older I get. It is by the image and devotion to the ‘ideal’ that Man lives and so, while others die a thousand times a day (even in their ‘younger years’), yet, by the power of my ideals, I will live (even thrive!) well into my eighties and be as young as ever! I will live youthful and vibrantly because I will ever drink from this fountain of youth which the living dead refer to as ‘dry’, ‘drab’, ‘boring’, and ‘useless’: devotion in my mind and in my soul to that which could be (and should be) – to the ideal.