DayBreaks for 1/25/17 – The Danger with Eternal Youth
From Doug Dalrymple’s blog, dated 1/5/07:
A life devoted to instant gratification produces permanent infantilization: ‘At sixty-four…tastes are what they were at seventeen.’ In our society, the telescoping of generations is already happening: the knowledge, tastes, and social accomplishments of thirteen-year-olds are often the same as those of twenty-eight-year-olds. Adolescents are precociously adult; adults are permanently adolescent. – Theodore Dalrymple, ‘The Dystopian Imagination’
In the first sentence above, Dalrymple is quoting Mustapha Mond, a character from Huxley’s Brave New World. In the novel, Mond is an ‘Alpha’ and the resident World Controller for Western Europe. As I recall, he keeps a forbidden Bible in a safe and is one of only two living people known to have read Shakespeare (‘John the Savage’ being the other). As Dr. Dalrymple notes, Mustapha Mond might as well have made his observation of our own day. Last September I wrote:
“Perhaps this is the natural progress of a culture that idolizes youth and sex, that devours its children and discards its elderly. The generation gap disappears while, from their respective ends of the ladder, adults descend and children ascend toward a universal, middle state of fragile, uncertain adolescence.”
Perhaps. But why this idolization of youth and sex, this devouring of children and discarding of elderly, in the first place? The celebration of youth and strength is nothing new, nor is lechery, nor resentment toward those to whom we owe much. Why should it be so difficult for westerners in particular to reconcile themselves to growing old? Is it, as Theodore Dalrymple suggests, a “life devoted to instant gratification” that produces “permanent infantilization?” I suspect that’s begging the question again. Perhaps it’s simply that the bogeyman of Death looms larger and fiercer as the image of the reconciling Cross and the Empty Tomb fades in the cultural memory. With a specter like Old Bones gaping at us in the foreground, and no savior to precede us, we’re inclined to flee, as best we’re able, in the opposite direction.
In any case, let’s not be too hard on our young people: it’s not easy to grow up these days. Those of us fortunate enough to have known living examples of well-adjusted maturity and reconciled old-age have less excuse, of course. But for those with video-gamer grandpas who divorce at 60 to pursue younger prospects, and plastic-surgeried grandmas who dress and talk like sixteen-year-olds, what can we really expect of them? That’s the trouble with eternal youth. – D. Dalrymple, Scrivener blog, 1/5/07
Galen’s Thoughts: the Western culture in particular idolizes youth and decries any mention of old age – let alone death in advanced years. It almost seems that our culture finds something shamefully distasteful about white hair and creaky bones and minds. We live in denial of advancing years and approaching death, and we “flee…in the opposite direction.” And the problem with eternal youth is that we never grow up, we never get wiser, just more and more foolish. Would it not be better to honestly face the future that awaits us all – whether we reach old age or not? Death is our next door neighbor throughout our entire lives, you know. We’d be wise to contemplate our meeting and how we wish to face “Old Bones”, for face him we shall. In a culture where the cross and empty tomb are shuffled off into ancient lore and the realm of make-believe instead of accepted truth, we must not run to eternal youth as the answer, but to the Eternal One for THE answer: Jesus.
PRAYER: Help us to spend our days on this earth not seeking physical beauty, or a life of care-free mindlessness content to frolic during our time “upon the stage”. Give us wisdom to contemplate our end, and our beginning, in You. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Copyright 2017 by Galen Dalrymple.