Friday, March 02, 2012

Great Riff on Coming of Age

from Michael Oakeshott's essay On Being Conservative:
Everybody’s young days are a dream, a delightful insanity, a sweet solipsism. Nothing in them has a fixed shape, nothing a fixed price; everything is a possibility, and we live happily on credit. There are no obligations to be observed; there are no accounts to be kept. Nothing is specified in advance; everything is what can be made of it. The world is a mirror in which we seek the reflection of our own desires. The allure of violent emotions is irresistible. When we are young we are not disposed to make concessions to the world; we never feel the balance of a thing in our hands—unless it be a cricket bat. … Since life is a dream, we argue (with plausible but erroneous logic) that politics must be an encounter of dreams, in which we hope to impose our own.

To rein in one's own beliefs and desires, to acknowledge the current shape of things, to feel the balance of things in one's hands...these are difficult achievements; and they are achievments not to be looked for in the young.

That's rather touching, but I do think he neglects the fact that there is also a lot of insecurity in youth, when one does not know if one is on the right track.


Mercury said...

If you put your thumb over the first two words of that quotation you would be forgiven for thinking that you're reading a description of today's American liberal/progressive.

CarlosH said...

Do old people know whether they are on the right track?

Eric Falkenstein said...

Well, they make fewer foolish decisions, and in that way are truly on better tracks. And right or wrong, they are more confident about their current path--the mind is good at rationalizing. But, responsibilities drive a lot of this too, and so one's path may no longer be a choice, and thus, one does not have the luxury of choosing and the resulting anxiety.