Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Youth and Age, Vice and Virtue

Youth and Age, Vice and Virtue

Young men make wars, and the virtues of war are the virtues of young men: courage, and hope for the future. Then old men make the peace, and the vices of peace are the vices of old men: mistrust and caution.

- Prince Feisal, played by Alec Guinness in Lawrence of Arabia, one of my favourite movies.

The young have courage and are ever-willing to take risks. They want to dive deep into life and experience it to the fullest. Never mind if life becomes a wild rollercoaster ride of intense pain and pleasure; it is the destiny of the young to immerse themselves completely in every experience that life has to offer and to take whatever consequences that come their way, bravely.

Ah, but when one is older, one looks back and begins to question such foolhardiness. Was it worth it--to waste one's youth away in such recklessness?

Our lives progress in stages, like rivers--from a fiery and tempestuous youth, to a slow meandering old age. When we are young, we don't think that much. We are all-action. When we are old, we are full of reflection and caution, and even regret.

It is a sad thing that energy and wisdom are seldom present together during one's lifetime. You have to trade one for the other. When you are older and full of experience and knowledge, you have already depleted the vigour of your youth ("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"--Byron).

So all of us out there--the young and the old; what are we to do? Is it possible for the young to learn a bit of the "mistrust and caution" of the old and the old themselves to reacquire a taste for adventure with a renewed sense of "courage and hope"?
Sherif Ali: There is the railway. And that is the desert. From here until we reach the other side, no water but what we carry with us. For the camels, no water at all. If the camels die, we die. And in twenty days they will start to die.

Lawrence of Arabia: There's no time to waste then, is there?

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