12 February 2008

Youth, Manhood and Responsibility

As an impetuous youth, I never feared the future. I never had to - because I didn't realize what it was. Then, my fears were simple: handing in my homework, getting to hang out with my friends, and keeping my parents in the dark about the fact I was smoking cigarettes. I never feared the future then - now, it's a looming harbinger of some gray nothingness, an omniscient presence in the room that lurks large yet reveals nothing. Yes, it's safe to say the future terrifies me when I look at the entire scope of it.
Part of this has to do with another turn of the wheel reminding me I am still starting out in the world, and should not expect immediate results. I am reminded of a story about the young Julius Caesar: once, as a young man in his early 30s, he looked at a statue of Alexander the Great, and bitterly wept because he, unlike Alexander, had accomplished very little. There are times when I too feel like bursting into tears. When does life stop being a waiting game?
I suppose this depends very much on the perspective one takes. Life, it could be said, can be nothing but a waiting game, provided that's the way one wants to see it. There is always an answer for the question of "What's next?" Sometimes, we just have to wait for it longer than others.
I'm listening to a book on tape of Stephen Ambrose's "The Wild Blue," about the young men who flew bombers in Europe during World War Two. It's amazing how truly YOUNG these men were - sometimes as young as 18 years old. After the training, they were no longer boys, yet men, full vested in the responsibilities and awareness of consequence that would take them home and make America once of the greatest countries in the world. I look at these men in awe - I am nearly 10 years older than the youngest, and still, I feel woefully immature by comparison. Now, we wouldn't trust an 18 year old with the keys to the family car, let alone let 10 of them fly a bomber loaded with 3,000 pounds of high explosive.
I suppose each generation, from Caesar's on down to mine, has its own particular time for greatness. I content my inner restlessness on days like today by reminding myself that my time for greatness simply hasn't arrived yet. Like Caesar, at this point in my life, I have not yet crossed the Rubicon.

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