Monday, May 03, 2004

Youth & Age

Youth & Age

O talk not to me of a name great in story;
The days of our youth are the days of our glory;
And the myrtle and ivy of sweet two-and-twenty
Are worth all your laurels, though ever so plenty.

Those were among my favourite lines by the Romantic poet, Lord Byron when I was a sixth form student, barely eighteen or nineteen years old--not even "sweet two-and-twenty"--at a time when I couldn't seem to wait to grow up faster. How much have I changed since then? I'd like to think that I haven't.

I don't read as much poetry as I used to, that's for sure. My passion for science and mathematics is probably not as deep as it was during my teenage years. But at the same time I have developed other areas of interest such as history, culture, philosophy and religion.

Books were rare then, and every volume I could lay my hands on were devoured with great eagerness and hunger. There were a lot less distractions too--life was a lot simpler, but I wouldn't say happier. For happiness is an acquired habit that comes with age.

Certainly nothing soars loftier or shines brighter than the hope we had when we were young; but so very often the young are wrecked by the immaturity of their conduct. It often takes age to fully appreciate youth.

Sometimes it seems that Life deals us a cruel hand: the wisdom we need so badly to realise the potential of our youth is denied us when we need it most. Somehow wisdom can only be traded with youth. And when wisdom is in our possession, the vigour and passion of youth is ours no more.

"What are garlands and crowns to the brow that is wrinkled? 'Tis but a dead flower with May-dew besprinkled", writes Byron.

Even though we are likely to be a lot wiser now compared to when we were younger, I'd also like to think that there's still a lot more for us to learn. We can never stop learning for the universe is so vast and so rich in wonders, even a grain of sand can be an endless source of fascination. So, for as long as there's wisdom out there to be acquired, there will always be enough intellectual nourishment for us to continue growing and we shall never have occasion to feel like a "dead flower with May-dew besprinkled".

Growing old is a luxury we cannot afford. There's simply no time for that.

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