I dreaded dinner. Sitting quietly, with my head down, I prayed my name wouldn’t be called. Then, I would hear the ring of a table knife striking a glass and as the dining room became silent, the order would be issued, “Pledge brother Tucker, stand up and recite the fraternity’s creed.” Believe me, what you learn under pressure, you never forget. Forty years later, I can still recite the Sigma Chi creed.
Recently, I have been thinking about a statement within the Creed: “I will endeavor to retain the spirit of youth.” At 18, it was an abstract thought to be memorized. Now, as I approach age 68, I grasp the importance of retaining the spirit of youth.
To understand the spirit of youth, you have to contemplate the attitudes that define being young: curiosity; a willingness to experiment and accept risk; and excitement. Characteristics that lead young people to be precipitous and make mistakes; characteristics that diminish with age; characteristics, when tempered by maturity, lead to success and happiness.
Why is it that curiosity decreases with age? Is it a conceit that we have seen everything? Been there, done that. Without curiosity we are confined to a box: the same way of thinking; an unwillingness to understand how new things work. With curiosity, you are challenged to learn about new and different things. You open yourself to change and possibilities.
Often, I hear people of my generation comment on how they don’t understand technology. They have heard about Facebook, Twitter and other social networking web sites but are unwilling to explore their attributes. Purchase postage online; check bank balances through a website; communicate with customers and suppliers in a new and different way: without a willingness to experiment and accept risk, the advantages occasioned by change are overlooked.
As we age, perhaps we believe we have too much to lose by experimenting. Or, maybe we fear the scorn of our younger colleagues as we demonstrate how far behind we are when it comes to technology. Whatever the reason, we run the risk of being left behind.
We smile at the excitement of a child opening a birthday present: the laughter, the look of delight and the cries of happiness. With age I find myself less willing to express my emotions; I greet exciting events with stoicism. Without thinking, I let my lack of excitement dampen the enthusiasm of others. What I forget, is genuine excitement lends to an atmosphere that encourages achievement and recognizes success.
The spirit of youth not only brings success but contributes to good health and longevity. There is truth in the old saying: “You are only as old as you think you are.”
“Let us fill a cup and drink to that most noble, ridiculous, laughable, sublime figure in our lives… The Young Man Who Was. Let us drink to his dreams, for they were rainbow-colored; to his appetites, for they were strong; to his blunders, for they were huge; to his pains for they were sharp; to his time for it was brief; and to his end, for it was to become one of us.” – Herman Wouk, Aurora Dawn