On a lighter note to what I normally post on, I thought I would quickly explain something I have observed since being a parent. It seems to me that many adults have a somewhat backwards perspective on growing up. That is, whilst many of us recognize the innocence of children as something that lights up our world, I think the true wisdom of youth is overlooked by many.
Certainly children can be very trying at times. They can be fickle, demanding, and can become upset very easily. If we are honest we will concede that we ourselves were the same during our early years. Likewise, the latter years of youth also bring their own problems, with the teenage mind commonly rejecting tried and tested truths and choosing to learn the hard way that fire burns (figuratively speaking).
Traditionally, older generations have been considered the gatekeepers of wisdom in many cultures. There is certainly no question that this is still so to some degree. Human beings can indeed develop more and more patience, kindness and depth as they proceed through life. They can develop acceptance and compassion through hardship, and we can learn from our mistakes as we grow older, and look beyond the surface to the deeper reality as we learn from our experience.
However, it is unfortunately very common that we develop psychological aberrations whilst young, which become more and more entrenched as we grow older. Contrary to becoming wiser as we age, it is unfortunately considered quite normal to degenerate deeper and deeper from the natural wisdom of youth as the years pass. That is, the aberrations that we developed in our youth – frequently as a response to aberrations in the world around us – become permanent, and we get worse and worse with age.
It is no big secret that babies and young children (and also baby animals) exhibit a natural innocence that can soften the hardest of hearts. However, the wisdom of which I am referring to is also the ability of children to heal so quickly, to change one condition or state into another, to learn new information and change opinions and beliefs. Also of course, the other half of the wisdom of youth is the constant and undying urge to experience joy that can quickly override the pain that we naturally experience in this world.
The world around is constantly changing, and the younger generations enter the world open to new technology, new ideas, new ways of living and thinking. They can move with the times, keep up with developments and adjust accordingly. When they start developing bad habits or tendencies, they can quickly change (with a bit of help) and leave the issues in the past. When traumatic events occur in their life, they can display incredible resilience, and find a way to be joyful regardless.
Children remind us of the importance of being lighthearted, of finding reasons to laugh, smile, sing and dance. Obviously as adults we have responsibilities to tend to, and we do not merely have the abundant leisure time available to the young. However, we must find a way to retain our youthful exuberance whilst meeting the challenges of adult life. We must attempt to retain that joy and sense of fun as we age. I do know people in their later years that have managed to hold onto this wisdom, defying their age and remaining open to the new, and I think we can all aspire to this ideal. It is also time that we come to fully appreciate the potential wisdom of our elders again, and bring back the respect and dignity which should be due of those that have been on this planet for longer than the rest of us.
Obviously I am not the first person to point this out. There have certainly been well known movements in spirituality and psychology that have pointed to the innocence of youth as an ideal of which adults can aspire, or have called for adults to reconnect with their “inner child”[i]. However, I think it is worthy of being said again, so as to be reminded of what’s truly important in life. A truly fulfilled human life should seek to balance out a community mindset and compassion for others with a passionate attempt to life ones own life to the full, to take opportunities as they arise and smile all the way.
Human beings have an incredible capacity to heal, to evolve, and to express the highest ideals in their daily lives. I am still working on it, and struggling immensely at times. Being a parent is certainly challenging at times, but it brings the most wondrous rewards. Obviously parenthood isn’t for everyone. I certainly respect the choice of many not to have children, I understand that it is not possible for some to do so, and I understand arguments by some about whether or not we have (or could have in the future) problems with overpopulation, and/or related issues of overconsumption. Nevertheless, I believe we can all do well to learn from the young. Let us not think of children as inferior to us, for in some ways they are closer to the truth than we are, and they are the best teachers. May we all encourage each other to balance responsibility and vision with openness and joy. May we be kind and gentle with each other.