Youth is Not Wasted on the Young

I’ve been organizing my personal files, paper and electronic, and  just rediscovered this piece. I wrote June 9, 2006 pretty soon after I started my blog. I didn’t post it because a young friend of mine who knew I was thinking about running for office talked me out of doing so. She was a little worried that it wasn’t serious enough and the Viagra joke bothered her. But having reread it–and being 6 years older and coming off of major surgery– I still like what it says about the importance of cross-generational collaboration and about the pleasures and pains of aging. And while I’ve lost touch with some of the young people I was working with in 2006, many of them are still friends and allies, and others have been replaced, in some cases by younger versions of themselves. Staying engaged with young people is still important to my life as a health appreciation for the knowledge and occasional wisdom that comes with age.  

I’d add one point–one of the great things about getting older (and deciding that you are never going to run for office again) is a certain freedom about having to appear serious. My young friend was wrong six  years ago. There is little to be gained in life from solemnity and taking yourself too seriously to poke a little fun at your own foibles and weaknesses. Even, perhaps especially if you want to lead others, it helps to show a little recognition of our common, shared humanity, and vulnerability.

She was probably right about the Viagra line. I wouldn’t write it today because it’s not a good joke. But too late to re-write history….

I turned fifty nine months ago. When people ask me, I have been saying that growing older is not fun. That’s partly because I see what growing older has meant to my parents and mother-in-law, who have been suffering from the pain, uncertainty, diminished capacities, and, sometimes, the indignities that seems to come with reaching the late seventies and eighties.

I have been thinking about this subject today because I just finished taking apart and putting back together my cell phone / PDA. I, perhaps foolishly, decided to replace a backup battery myself. I have, or used to have, the technical skills to do this. But I forgot one thing: my vision has deteriorated over the last ten years. I have been near-sighted since third grade and in the last ten years, have almost totally lost my near-point. So it is almost impossible for me to see the tiny screws that hold the phone together, let alone the bracket that hold the backup battery.

My eyes started going a while ago. Lately I have noticed I don’t hear as well as I used to, especially in noisy environments. So far sex is not a problem without chemical enhancement, knock wood (sorry). But it is different in ways that are mostly but not always for the better. And worst of all, I recover very slowly when I get banged up. A few years ago I fell while running to get on the R7. Twenty years ago I would jumped right up and been fine the next day. But this time I was in pain for about two weeks with some bruises and cuts.

I am old enough to complain with my friends about the younger generation. And of course, one of the things we say is that youth is wasted on the young. If only the young realized that some day their bodies would fail them they would appreciate what they have now.

Today, however, I realized that there is something wrong with this folk saying. Think about it. If you knew in your twenties how and when your body was going to fail in the future, how would you have lived your life differently?  Would you spend a lot more time looking at tiny objects? Would you make an effort to hold more conversations in noisy rooms? Would you try to get banged up more often? Would you spend more time having sex?

In our sex obsessed culture, maybe we would answer yes to that one. But, really, one of the things we do learn as we get older, and hopefully long before our body fails us, is that not every sexual opportunity is meant to be taken, even if what we are after is the physical pleasures of sex, and even more so if sex is a way of deeply connecting with other people.

So, I’m never going to say that youth is wasted on the young again, at least in so far as their bodies are concerned. And, I’m not all that worried about their souls. Over the last six months I have met an incredible group of young men and women, mostly associated with Philly for Change, who have a devotion to public life in general and this city in particular. They have been willing to put their bodies and souls on the line to make life better here.

Again, the older generation is quick to kvetch and point out that these kids don’t yet have the family and job commitments that would make it hard for them to spend days and nights politicking. But the fact is that they have lives as well, careers to develop (bar exams to take, dissertations and novels to write) as well as relationships to create. And, in many cases, they have put these things aside to learn the difficult art of politics.

They are, some of the time, infuriating in their naïve idealism and in their obsessions, which occasionally clouds their judgment. But that is precisely what youth is for—to make impossible demands and ask all those questions that as we age we sometimes forget to ask.

It also is a time to learn, and these young men and women have been farsighted enough to seek out and engage people older than themselves, who can once in a while give them useful advice.

So as far as these young men and women, youth is not being wasted. I see it being exploited it to its fullest. Those of us who know them are better for their company. And, soon enough, the whole city will see that as well.

And, as for my phone, well I found a bright place and found the right spot where I can still see well enough at short distances to open the case and then put the backup battery plug in the bracket. I’ve discovered, too, that just taking off my glasses gives a bit more near focus than I would otherwise have. So the procedure went forward. I almost got stuck when I dropped one of the screws that hold the whole thing together. But I borrowed the eyes of my 13 year old daughter to help me find it. And, thanks to this cross-generational collaboration, it is working again.

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  1. I’m a dork. When I go to a site and it doesn’t load right away, I try to see what hangs it up. On your site after it loaded the text and wasn’t displaying comments right away, I looked at saw it was hanging on the contactmebutton request.

    On firefox it is relatively easy to do. Bottom left of the screen it will show what site it is currently downloading from.

  2. That as it, Adam. Since that plugin didn’t even work, I’m glad to get rid of it. How did you figure that out?

    Once again I’m struck by the difference between amateurs and pros 😉

  3. Yeah, the lag is from whatever is loading from

  4. The plug-in only looks about every ten minutes. You can delay it more but not do it any more often.

    Did you notice a lag between when the posts load, and the comments load? That’s a little annoying but better than delaying everything I guess.

    Thanks very much for checking. It’s a big help.

  5. NM. just looks like there is a dealy with the syncing.

  6. Facebook login works, but now it doesn’t seem like posts here are pushing onto the comment section of your page.

  7. I think it’s OK now.

  8. You’re site isn’t loading now.

  9. Simple FB Connect puts a FB login button up that brings up a FB login window. But from there, things seem not to work. I’m going to leave it enabled for a bit. If you have a chance and are interested, give it a try Adam.

  10. Wordbooker evidently doesn’t that capacity. Simple FB connect does, however. That’s the first wordress plug-in I tried and couldn’t get to do the comment passing. I’m not sure two FB / wordpress plug-ins are going to work together. But I’m going to give Simple FB Connect login function a try.

  11. I tested before I wrote. :p It didn’t give a prompt for logging in with facebook validation.

  12. I think that’s part of the package. I’m not sure I turned it on, though. I better check.

  13. Now you just need to set it up to where they can login to your site via their facebook account as well. 😉

  14. Yeah, Drupal has a similar module as well.

  15. Yes, You have to setup up a FB application, iirc. (This stuff doesn’t stick in my brain.) But Wordbooker handles the details and tells you exactly what you have to entire into FB and then what code you have to copy from FB to the WordPress plugin settings.

    And it allows you to post into your own page or group pages.

  16. Was this from tying the Facebook APIs into wordpress?

  17. Yes both yours and mine and integrated into the wordpress comment thread.! Hurray! I finally figured this out. Turns out, though that “public comments” that people put at the wordpress site don’t come back to this thread but become a new post in my one’s FB page.

    At any rate, most comments on my blog posts come from FB. So this is good.

    The plug in is called wordbooker. I just installed the latest version. I’m not sure if that fixed or if there was a switch to turn this on that I had missed before.

  18. comment test–checking to see if this will go back to my blog.

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