I Dunno About that Youth Thing

One of Michener’s novels — The Drifters — opens with an inscription, “Youth is truth.” Even as a young person, that didn’t ring true to me. The novel wasn’t his best, either.

Youth back when I was one was a kind of phenomenon. I’m not sure it was ever the same before or since. The popular media was just beginning to be glitz and large format photos in magazines. Youthful rebellion, fashion, all of that were suddenly very interesting to people who had something to sell. Young people in the late 60s and early 70s had money. I don’t know all the factors that came into play at that time because I was in the middle of it.

In my mind now, at nearly 65, youth is something more profound and less tied to age. It’s a state of being continually on the edge of discovery. Goethe believed that certain people have the ability to regain elements of youth, to begin new projects, pursue new directions,

“…experience a renewed puberty, whilst other people are young but once.” Yet, he is deeply cognizant of the facts of nature, saying, “Still, youth is youth; and however powerful an Entelechy may prove, it will never become quite master of the corporeal, and it makes a wonderful difference whether it finds in the body an ally or an adversary.” (Conversations with Eckermann)

He’s right. When my right hip reached the point where I absolutely had to have surgery or spend my life in a wheelchair (2006) I was 80 years old though only 54. The doctor, awful as he was, said, “We normally see this in people over 80!” Though two years earlier I had been hiking every day, often with hiking pals who were young men in their 20s, by 54 I was walking with a cane and in constant and excruciating pain.

That experience aged me both physically and psychologically. It’s very difficult when you’ve felt pain like that, dealt with ignorant doctors who mis-diagnose you, struggle to walk, endure major surgery, etc. etc. NOT to change. Even intangibles such as attitude cannot remain the same. I thought at the time that we have, in the course of our lives, innumerable falls from innocence. That was one of my major falls.

But I got up again.





10 thoughts on “I Dunno About that Youth Thing

  1. We can do it. It is also a metal problem. I try to thing youthful, even if my body rebels against it, and it does help. My problems will not get better, I know, but they do not have to break a speed record. Doctors are ok when you need them, but they all seem to have different opinions. Mine is the “no rush” type, but how are we supposed to know that there is “no rush”?.

    • I think it depends on the condition — my doctor didn’t even send me for x-rays of my hip. That was negligent since my symptoms were classic, though, maybe 25 years early. But they were there so what does “25 years early” even mean? But I learned that pain is a soul-sucker…

  2. Is that a Betsy Wetsy I spy? Doesn’t look like Tiny Tears and I have one just like her …

    I didn’t like “The Drifters” for a whole bunch of reasons, but especially because the author came off as a stodgy, smug old guy. It was supposed to be about “how great youth is” but it came across as “I don’t get it.” I thought Michener should go back to writing historical fiction, which fortunately, he did.

      • I’m really losing my whole doll-collector-guise. I used to be able to spot the doll, the year, the manufacturer at a glance. Not anymore. Oh well. At least I can still tell American Character from Madame Alexander. Usually.

        I think Drifters is a proves that just because you’re good at one thing, doesn’t mean you’re great at something else. On the other hand, Michener managed to have an amazingly long and profitable career. Enviably so. I will give him a pass on that one. And a few others, come to think of it.

  3. I’m with Sue. “Don’t count the times you get knocked down, count the times you get back up.”
    I find myself avoiding the things that smack me in the face with: You’re too old for this, or you’re too sick for this. Sometimes I’m disappointed to wake up. But it don’t last long.

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