Pic of the day: It is no surprise that I agree with this view about Valentine's day, but it runs far deeper than that. I see the whole youth cult as an "accidental conspiracy".
Grow old or be enslaved
I don't diss the capitalist system, the market economy, the American way of life that has lifted not only America itself but much of the world up from poverty. It is not perfect, but compared to anything that has preceded it, and compared to its current competitors, it looks more like divine intervention than anything. We may wax lyrical about the good old days, but the old days were only good for a few rich people. The rest had a really hard time, with food being scarce or at best boring, and the same for clothes. This is still largely so for the nations that have decided to fully reject the American way of life: North Korea, Sudan and various Arab countries, and recently Zimbabwe.
OK, that's out of the way. I'm not some leftist iconoclast or Luddite who wants to bring about the end of Western civilization. What I want is for you, the individual who reads this, to be free. Or at least more free than the average person. I know this is possible because I am there. And it does not require armed revolution. It just requires growing. I won't even say growing up, because frankly few would associate that with me. So let us see what kind of growing I mean and what kind of freedom I mean.
We are surrounded by advertising. Those who have TV are particularly at risk, because the TV advertising can command more attention than a billboard of printed page, and has been finely honed to play on your emotions with the persuasive power of almost-real life. But other advertisements do their best with their available resources. There are certainly ads that are dry and factual: The frequent leaflets informing us of the price of beef in the nearby shop rarely go further than a decorative color photo to inflame our beefy desire. But there is a lot of emotional advertising too, and it is not haphazard: It is tailored by well-paid professional to manipulate the various target groups as much as possible, to make them do the bidding of the advertisers.
In light of this, it makes a chilling sense that the whole advertising culture is so focused on youth. Not merely on selling to young people, but making grown-ups feel young. This is almost without thinking taken as a good thing. True, it is not all that great to have stiff joints and a restless bladder. But the thing is, very few buyable products will change this. What you are supposed to be is young in your mind. This is a bad idea. Or rather, it makes sense for a short while when you are actually young. But not for the duration of your life, especially with the life expectancy people have these days.
The most obvious drawback of youth is impulsiveness. Well, it is a drawback for you, as it tends to cause uncomfortable situations, varying from embarrassment to health hazards and even possibly a run-in with the law. But most commonly it entails expenses. And it so happens that your expenses are someone else's income. These people would wish nothing more than for you to remain young and impulsive year after year, even as your income increases and your wisdom does not.
Another side of youth is that we are naturally expanding in the material world. Life has different phases, and the early years of adulthood are filled with getting established: Starting a family, buying or renting a house and filling it, getting a car and later on a better car, collecting this and that, making friends. You spend your time engaging with the world, in a good and healthy way. Good and healthy for the actual young person, who has just entered into the responsibilities of adult life. Children, soon forthcoming, need a place to sleep, they need food and toys and new clothes every few months as they grow. To ignore the world and dedicate your life to esoteric wisdom would be a grave mistake, even a crime, for the family man or woman. If you can get locked into this mindset for the rest of your life, you will run the hamster treadmill of capitalism with earnest dedication until you collapse.
In earlier societies, the few who survived to old age where expected to become sages, or at least this much was hoped. Not all were cut out for that, but the wise old man or woman was a great resource not just for the extended family but the whole village. To grow old was a triumph, considering the alternative. Perhaps wisdom and age were connected so deeply because the fools fell by the wayside, whereas now the state keeps them alive and showers them with gifts from our tax money. But be that as it may, the age of the wise old man or woman is over. Today, the old are expected to dye their hair purple and go out clubbing. Not that there is anything inherently wrong with that. But never growing up past 25, there is something deeply wrong about that.
In India, once your sons were grown up and had their own families, you were supposed to become a monk and dedicate your last years to wisdom and piety. (Women were not supposed to become nuns, as they were unlikely to reach salvation anyway until they were reborn as men, and the best way to achieve that was to obey your father first, then your husband and finally your sons. If you then thought of your husband at the moment of your death, you would surely stand a good chance to become reborn as a man, that much closer to the final salvation. I would venture that wisdom is at all times a relative concept in this world.) Anyway, this idea of becoming a professional elder is very much at odds with our youth-centered culture. And who is profiting from that?
Peer pressure is an important part of life for most young people. It may not feel like it, in fact you may feel very rebellious, but most young people constantly look to others (especially of their own generation) to see what they do. Even the outsiders tend to clump together and make sure to do the opposite of the mainstream. What is almost impossible for the young is to completely ignore what those around them do and say and wear. But the truly mature person will do this more and more. They already know in their heart, from experience and from insight, what to do. Fashion is at most a hobby to them, not a ticket to becoming accepted. By nature the old are meant to teach and provide guidance. In fact, the whole of "grandparent" phase of human life happens after other mammals die (except elephants, in which grandparents also help care for offspring). It is obvious that these added years are different and have a different function than the first. That function is to teach, and most of all by example.
The advertising industry wants to tell you that you need to do this or that to become accepted. A young person is vulnerable to this, and seeing it day after day will start to copy the advertised behavior without thinking. But the old person knows on a deep level that this is not how it works. He already has friends who have been around for decades and whose friendship he is secure of. And he knows from experience that being helpful and considerate is a far better way of becoming accepted than drinking the most popular soft drink.
It may be flattering to think that you have reached the top of your life at 25. But this is hardly the case, except for your muscles. The mind however keeps growing for decades. In fact, there seems to be no upper limit on it unless disease makes its mark. Unfortunately for most people this will happen, usually Alzheimer's but blood clots and burst blood vessels along with tumors add up to nearly the same amount. This takes its time though for most people, so that their thoughts and feelings grow richer until well past 50 and often well past 60 too. For those lucky enough to be spared these scourges, it would seem that only death finally stops their growth once and for all. Either death or advertising.
They are taking away your birthright as a human. Why do you consent to this? Your life experience should change you, and your children growing up (if you have any) should free your mind to expand outside the house, to reach out to the village, the land and the world, if not to the cosmos itself. And above all, the slowly growing insight in your own mortality should turn your thoughts to the timeless. But of course there is little money in contemplation of truth, beauty and virtue, or the coming and going of the spirit. You become worthless to your hidden masters, who need you to run in circles powering their great machine. By feeding you illusions of youth, they can keep you running till you collapse. And if they are truly successful, you may even believe that this is as close to happiness as you come.
It is better to grow old than to become old without growing.
Visit the archive page for the older diaries I've put out to pasture.