Lancing at Windmills
I see young adults today and a large chunk of my heart goes out to them. I glance into the eyes of a teenage girl who is convinced she is a woman, and I see the burden of yesterday’s difficulty, today’s confusion, tomorrow’s unknown, and every day’s doubt. I espy a teenage boy and I see a kid pretending to be a man and believing he is; for the innocence of ignorance is a formidable shield to the acceptance of un-infallibility.
While we enjoy the benefits of our professional careers, and drive to our jobs in steel boxes worth as much as some homes, we forget that those young adults are stressed far more than we appreciate. Peer pressure, lack of esteem, drugs, sex, popularity, grades, jobs, money, career, friends, and doubt are just a few of their struggles. We also forget, or should I say ignore, that youth is a library of empty shelves, yet we expect them to ‘make it’ on their own. Rather than seeking wisdom and history from the elder, youth simply write new books through inexperience, blunders, pain, and misshapen decisions. Because volumes of experience remain unlived, the flowers across the valley are hidden, and the music in the meadow is unheard. If only we would help them find that library.
Don’t denounce today’s youth as being to cocky or self-centered to care that guidance and insight exist, there but for the asking, for we elders deserves as much blame, perhaps more. The inadequacy of youth is so by definition, and we can’t expect young people to seek out our insight or know of its value. However, the short-sighted, inattentive, and often oblivious adult (you and I) has no such excuse. While seasoned adults see fog and enter with caution, watching closely for obstacles, carefree youth see nothing in a cloud of deception, hastily rush in, and crash headlong into a wall of disdain. Only the rare and unique schoolchild will seek out example and counsel–it’s just not a feature of youth–yet without recognizing it they do seek counsel. Conscientious elders of foresight and aptitude will detect it if only we would observe, not their attitude, but their eyes.
Perhaps you try but see no chance for triumph over pubescence. Such is shameful yet understandable, for youth is a zealous adversary, and lancing windmills may be a whole lot easier. But can one blame the ignorance of youth on youth when they are born with it? Yes, it’s difficult to lance youth’s spinning doubt and mend their vanes of wonder so they might capture the winds of understanding. But is it folly to try? If they don’t care enough to hear of experience and wisdom, are the words wasted? Is lancing at the windmills of youth truly the impossible dream? Absolutely not.
The lessons life taught us, the roads to avoid, the journey of wondrous love, and the mistakes, can be revealed, shared, and turned into gold nuggets. Only selfish egos believe that unshared wisdom has value, just as a lone man prideful of his worth is fooling only himself. Knowledge unshared is but worthless gold bullion shipwrecked, never to be spent.
As a young lad grappling alone with reason, armed only with the influence of my tiny world to establish my beliefs, as many of you, I set out unprepared to search for wisdom. I was told of a God of righteousness and love, but dictated to about right and wrong and threatened of hell. I was told of societal correctness, yet societal example was of wrongfulness and shame. I was tossed to the lions of deceit without a spear of reasoning. I was thrown into the ocean of lies with no lesson on swimming through deception. I was sent off to mature with no idea of how to sort truth from chaff. Worse, I was let loose in a desert of love, life’s most precious gift and valiant purpose, with no canteen of experience or example to sustain my journey.
Young and eager minds today have more and stronger rogues to battle. The oceans and the deserts grow even larger. Does it mean that youth today is beyond awakening; that every young adult shields the wisdom of time; that youth cannot open their minds to maturity; that all attempt to lance their windmill should be forsaken? Hell no! Not to try is to lose a battle never fought, to give in to a lazy intellect of potbellied beliefs, to be a couch-potato of wasted thought.
Youth today are reaching out, grasping, seeking knowledge and wisdom. Seeking happiness of positive thought and joyful sharing, and looking for truths that they cannot understand or yet fathom. They have questions, skepticism, doubt, and uncertainty. They are reaching out for you; a father, mother, teacher, friend, mentor. But don’t look for their outstretched arms, you won’t see any, look instead into their eyes, and gaze into their soul. You’ll see it if you do, for they are not yet experienced enough to hide the longing.
But how does one convince youth they are capable of so much less pain tomorrow if they seek council today? How does one persuade youth that time and age are diamonds available to them merely for the taking, rather than toiling in the mine? And how does one reassure youth it is not persuasion that wisdom seeks, but only a chance to be heard with shields laid at rest? Youth are today’s Don Quixote de la Mancha, searching for their tomorrow, lancing at rogue windmills with such weak lances. And we must be as Sancho Panza, their trusty squires, the peasant with common sense and wisdom. We must be the antithesis of their confusion, as Sancho was of Don Quixote, his irrational master.
How do we do that? There is no sure way. It’s a foolish person that makes demands of another’s mind, and the one mind stronger than that of a man, is that of a boy. Truly the strength of youth cannot not be lanced by any well meaning knight. Only youth controls youth, and they alone can unstop their ears. Thus, be not a pampas adult, a lecturer, a preacher, a dictator or a judge, but instead be compassion, understanding, patience, and love–be Sancho Panza.
We teachers, parents, priests, and musicians; scientists, chefs, clerks, and cab drivers, should stop hoarding and give back, through sharing, what time, pain, and happiness have given us. Give away the diamonds we mined and hope a few are polished. Sadly, young adults (as well as many adults) are fearful of embarrassment; a child’s fear with no basis. It’s up to us to topple the barriers to sharing by first lancing our own fears. To reveal ones doubts, desires, mistakes, questions, flaws, and emotions, is difficult for many, but imperative to truthful communication. Perfection only lectures. Without sensitivity and vulnerability, we limit our horizons to pitifully few opportunities outside of the cage we build and take refuge in. We need to get over the fear of being less than utopian, it’s senseless.
If you reach out, ask, are genuine, truly care (they will know), are persistent and patient, and if you are willing to share your mistakes, your honesty, and maybe moist eyes, you will be allowed in. Reluctantly at first perhaps, but so many young adults seek wisdom, even when they don’t know it. When you are let in, it may not be obvious, just don’t give up. It is our responsibility to do so, a small payback for what we have.
As a CEO your difference is the bottom line, as an architect your pride is in the building, as a scientist your success is discovery, as a laborer your value is a job well done. Yet those successes will be forgotten as soon as the new CEO replaces you, the building needs painting, new discoveries are made, or a stronger laborer enters the scene. Those products are short-term and temporary–of diminishing value—but not wisdom shared with our youth or the love given a child. Not so the tears of compassion given, and not so the shoulder to lean on.
Become a mentor, a friend, a caring soul. Share the wisdom of age and experience. Take it upon yourself to look into the eyes of youth. If you do, you will see the beckoning. The mind and emotions of young adults are critical to our tomorrow–help them. Your contribution will never be lost. It will become part of them and passed on to many more. You will have made a difference in a life, perhaps many lives. Leave behind part of your wisdom and pain. You will be a memory with meaning, realized value, and continued life, rather than a dusty plaque on the wall, a tarnished watch, or a gold pen empty of ink. Take on the role of Sancho Panza. Grab your lance, mount your courage, open your heart, and go find a kid to lance.