Tuesday, July 29, 2008

The Unhealthiest of Unhealthy Obsessions

I've been meaning to post on this topic well before now, but no matter. What prompted me, in part, was observing how the Baby Boomers, who tried their hardest to redefine youth and youthful rebellion in their heyday, have now been trying to prolong the experience. This kind of endeavor makes me deeply uncomfortable. It reminds me how youth-obsessed we are in this culture. Being obsessed with outward appearances while discounting the lessons and experience born out of time is deeply foolish.

There should be nothing shameful in growing old. Existing in a state of arrested development is quite dangerous and sets a regrettable precedent for generations to come. Sure, our outward bodies are more attractive in youth, but that can only take you so far. Just as beauty is only skin deep, so too is youth. This sort of cult of youth that has sprung up now and has encouraged cottage industries to spring up with names like plastic surgery, botox, and color-treated. Millions of Americans desperately fork out dollars to find the Fountain of Youth.

Part of it too is that we often want it all. We'd never really sacrifice the good things that age has to offer if there were some way to exchange them for physical agelessness. Ingrained assumptions are many in this culture and one such example is that of the idea of youth. Many of us will laud experience as the sole denominator of which we place our faith. But while we will criticize those who seem too youthful and inexperienced, we will with the same breath criticize those who appear too old and wizened.

I, personally, have made more progress towards peace of mind and a kind of inner comfort as I have aged. My teenage years were some of the most uncomfortable I've ever experienced. My grandparents generation collectively referred to those times as "the awkward age" and awkward is a kind way to describe the way I felt then.

It's a fallacy of thought to think that we ever had a total reverence towards our elders. American culture, with its emphasis upon newness and particularly the next big thing, has never been receptive towards the idea. So instead of lamenting that which never was, let's create what should be, instead. Age is nothing to shirk from, and it ought to be welcomed rather than smoothed, snipped, color-treated, or altered out of existence.

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