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Thursday, November 1, 2012

the fountain of youth

Give me a second   I, I need to get my story straight /my friends are in the bathroom getting higher than the empire state

There is a story of an old man who had lazy sons and fertile lands. He was worried that when he died his sons would not make use of their inheritance and  let the soil go to rot. He knew that the preparing of land for planting and harvest was a hard thing. He remembered getting up at the crack of dawn to dig and dig and dig. He would begin on one corner of his farm and dig hard to stay ahead of the rain, he would dig across the farm and along its boundaries, he would dig deep so that the mulch that had long settled in the bottom of the soil would be churned up and come to the surface, he would dig wide so that his efforts covered the whole farm. For months he would dig and then he would let God bring down the rain and in this way he kept his family in food.

He was a cunning old man so when he died he wrote his sons a story of the family treasure buried somewhere in their lands. A treasure of gold and gems, of silver and diamonds, precious stones and rare metals all they would have to do is find it. The sons heard this and resolved to do just that, they began to dig. They began at one corner of the farm and dug hard to find the treasure, they dug across the farm and along its boundaries, they dug deep looking for the treasure and mulch that had long settled in the bottom of the soil was churned up and came to the surface, they dug wide so that their efforts covered the whole farm. For months they dug and then God brought down the rain. And come harvest time they looked up and saw what treasure their father was talking about. The trees were laden with fruits and vegetables, corn and maize and at their feet carrots and potatoes  had sprouted across their land. Bags and bags of food and fruit found their to the market place and the sons were never lazy again.

my lover she is waiting for me just across the bar/ My seat's been taken by some sunglasses asking 'bout a scar

This article is supposed to be about the fountain of youth and before I began writing it I thought I would read up on how this legend began to circulate the world. One version is spread by Herodotus; he was a Greek traveller back in the days when we owed Greece a debt, democracy is a good thing after all. He claimed that it was found in Ethiopia and that this accounted for why the Ethiopians lived for so long. Most stories concerning the fountain of youth have in them an element of travel and hardship. It’s far away everyone claims, it’s hard to get there and are you sure you want to risk it all on a dream? The truth about most people who went out in search of the fountain of youth is that they spent all their youth looking for it and came home old and tired with no location of the fountain to report just stories of the places they have been and the things they have seen.

No one believes in the fountain of youth anymore. Ok it would be wrong of me to say no one after all scientology is a thing and faith is not an aspect of reason. But most people who talk about a fountain of youth mean hanging on to this mix of emotions and ideas that we have we are young. This belief that we can do anything, have anyone, go anywhere. The endless array of possibilities and our faith in our strength to achieve them. The feeling of immortality that carries us from one really stupid decision to another. The ability to see the world as a young person does, not as a child who sees it through rules and the eyes of whoever holds their hands but as a freely reasoning adult.

 That moment when you can see the world can be changed, that happiness can be achieved. That perfect moment when you are surrounded by friends and laughter when our problems and stresses are so far away we can’t even remember how they feel. To capture this moment and make it last is the fountain of youth we all look for. Not a life of just this moments but a life when such moments are always possible when the promise of youth is not just a memory but always a possibility.

Tonight/ We are young

Two things struck me about the fountain of youth stories; you had to go far away to find it and by the time you didn’t you had already lost your youth. The stories reminded me of the story about the old man and his sons. He told them that to find treasure they had to dig and dig and though they didn’t find treasure they found something just as precious. All the stories about the fountain of youth tell us to go far away. Far away from ourselves and all the things we thought we couldn’t do. Ethiopia is just next door to Kenya but it’s still so hard to get to, how much harder would it have been for a Greek living thousands of years ago? He would have to hide away his fears about life, he would be told by people that what he was doing was stupid and would end in disaster. That nothing good would come of it and still he would have had to believe in himself. He would set aside his fears and go about organising his life because it was his. He would set off not knowing when he would return or what he would find in front of him. He would leap into the dark with no net and no compass.

so if by the time the bar closes /and you feel like falling down / I'll carry you home

While on his way there he would find adventures and stories. He would make friends and make sacrifices, he would live life and in the end he wouldn’t find the fountain and would come back tired and old but he would be young. He would have known he lived life on his own terms for a little. That he believed in himself enough to do what he thought was right. In his memories, in his trials he would be forever young. David Foster Wallace once wrote that “our endless and impossible journey towards home is in fact our home.”

So let’s set the world on fire/ we can burn brighter the sun

That may have been the real secret about the fountain of youth. That it is not located in a place but it is found in an attempt. Nobody  who is successful had 100% of the people believing in him. They were told they couldn’t do what they wanted to. And there is no formula for happiness. To each his own path, but the stories about digging for the fountain of youth may have been trying to tell us that the digging is its own reward. The courage to try what you really want to try. To be who you want to be. Take a risk and dig and dig and before you know it soft fruit and food will fall from the heavens. Maybe we can’t be forever young but we won’t know if we don’t at least try.

So what are your thoughts on what keeps us feeling young?

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