03 July 2009

The Youth

I was telling a friend the other night of a growing need to do something, contribute something significant by the time I turn 30. I'm running out of time and ideas. He suggested I was already contributing by teaching and wading through those characteristically murky waters. It's easy to see that from the outside, I suppose, but I struggle to see much value or betterment in the process.

Lately I've returned to the Neverland complex of my youth: my incessant refusal to grow up, gather commitments and other features of adult life. I've awkwardly resisted commitment, especially in relationships, finding the closer they become the more paranoid and fearful I become. I remember clearly the endless days of youth filled with imaginary games set in a faraway place. The neighborhood kids and I were lost boys in our way, only returning to reality when it was time for supper. It was the sort of thing I wanted to hold on to forever.

And then, despite my best efforts of stopping time, I found myself engaged in the study of philosophy, which very really requires an abandonment of all things childish. It requires new and bigger words, to say nothing of a courage to pursue the existential angst that comes from reading these people who's thoughts have the potential of reducing the reader to tears. In the course of that study, I realized that my childhood was slipping away forever, waving from the shoreline until the horizon faded into an open sea.

I wonder if I'm an anomaly in this regard. A man now near 30 who still floats alone, somewhat aimless. I see a good number of people my age married off and with children, paying mortgages and saving for family vacations. I wonder if I'm not behind the curve, if the very sight of me doesn't spark absurdity.

I look at my bookshelf as I put these words together and see a series of dead writers who, to varying degrees, attempted to articulate the ineffable mystery of the human condition. Treatises on this philosophical system or that, collections of narrative and biography. It's a bizarre collection, antiquated by my waning interest.

Nietzsche, that embodiment of genius-turned-illness, wrote: "We are unknown, we knowers, to ourselves... Of necessity we remain strangers to ourselves..." Of what necessity? The necessary demand that we depart from the past, strive for some future while remaining inescapably tied to the fleeting present? Yes, I do suppose self-knowledge can reduce us to mental and emotional dribble, but I suspect it also has the potential to vault one up.

And finally, Lincoln once wrote to a friend, "I have been, many times, driven to my knees by the overwhelming conviction I've nowhere else to go." It's when that being driven has the duration of years that one becomes weary.

No comments: