Charlie's Blog: The Cult of Youth


The Cult of Youth

Youth is wasted on the young.

I was young when I defected from the cult of youth. When I was in my twenties, none of my heroes were in their twenties. I'm not sure why I changed in that regard, but I began to realize that no one under the age of 40 was really all that great. This isn't to say that young people have nothing to say or contribute. Flannery O'Connor died before she even hit 40, yet I think she is the best writer of fiction I have ever read. But the fact is that such greatness is exceptional in the young where it is commonplace in the old. Even with O'Connor, you wonder what she would have done had she lived.

The problem with youth is that few young people have the wisdom to appreciate their vitality. With Flannery O'Connor, she was never actually young because she had lupus, and her Roman Catholic faith gave her a perspective on things that is ancient. The vitality of youth has been prized primarily because of two things--rock and roll and technology. The raw energy of rock music came primarily from youth and the stupidity of not knowing that good music comes from years of practice and mastery. Similarly, technology is all about the new. Yet, both rock and computers have been around long enough to yield geezers who have lived and died with nothing more profound to tell the world except to "think different."

There is no wisdom in youth. We know this because of our fondness for gray hairs in high offices. Of course, wisdom is extremely rare even among the old timers. This country produced the worst generation ever in the Baby Boomers who spit in the faces of their parents and now loot their children and grandchildren as they go into a self-indulgent retirement subsequent generations will never know. The Boomers were the first generation to put youth at the center of things and now try desperately to maintain it as it inevitably fades away. The greatest visual sign of this is the popularity of plastic surgery, steroids, fake breasts, and hair replacement.

Cosmetic surgery is based on the belief that it is better to look like the Joker from Batman than to look your age. This is sad and pathetic. I can't look at anyone who has gone under the knife without some pity for that person and their vanity. But I admire those who decide that dignity is better than vanity and eschew plastic surgery.

Everyone gets older but not everyone gets better. Wise people embrace their years believing that the best is in front of them and not behind them. Foolish people live in a perpetual adolescence. They are self-absorbed and selfish. Like children. It is tragic that the people who most need to grow up are in their sixties and seventies now. They prove that it is possible to live a long life and not learn a damn thing.

Ultimately, the cult of youth believes that the body is more important than the soul. The material matters more than the spiritual. The new is to be preferred over the timeless. And you should "think different" instead of thinking better. The result is vanity, self-indulgence, and a bunch of loud music and shiny toys. The Baby Boomers will be remembered as the generation that never grew up. It will be a blessing to this nation when they clear off.

Somewhere between there and I’m sorry to say, my generation, we got here, we started smoking dope, tune in and turn out, make love not war. The bottom line is we have really screwed this thing up.