When a man dies, he does not just die of the disease he has: he dies of his whole life. -- Charles Peguy
Everyone knows times of trial. Indeed, over the course of our lives, most of us will know several flavors thereof: health, money, marital, family, and occupational troubles. That knowledge doesn't make them any easier to bear, but it can reassure us, to some extent, that we're not being burdened unfairly.
The source of instruction most relevant to bearing up under your trials is someone who has already endured them. He'll know what you're going through. He'll have a survivor's perspective on its scope and severity. He might even know how to prevail against it. But there's a catch: You have to know him, and listen to him.
That catch has quite a lot of us caught in it just now.
It's an old saw that a child, upon entering adolescence, concludes (if he hasn't already) that his parents are stupid. It's all too clear that they don't have the slightest clue about "What's Happenin' Now," and therefore can't possibly have anything of importance to tell him. Thereafter, he watches them "get smarter and smarter," until at about age 26 he realizes that they really did know a few things about Life, the Universe, and Everything. The pattern repeats as the young adult produces his own spratlings and spends twenty years or so resolutely resisting the urge to murder them in their sleep.
There are a couple of new hitches to the progression today. One is that parents appear to be more eager to exile their ungrateful brats than ever before. The other is the huge number of "new voices" attempting to sway young people this way or that, and which is capable of deflecting listeners away from more reliable sources of wisdom and guidance.
Those "new voices" have an agenda. They're not terribly open about it. And they're quite willing to lie to advance it. This is especially important in politics and matters of public policy.
In 2008, the "new voices" exhorted young Americans to throw their support to Barack Hussein Obama. His public-speaker's gifts, though considerable, weren't enough to close the deal, and he and his strategists knew it. So he promised them everything but water from the Moon, without ever making an explicit commitment to which he could be held after his inauguration. It was all airy generalities -- "hope and change" -- right up to the first Tuesday in November.
But they bought it. They didn't have the perspective that drives older Americans to see past the pretty words to the core of the speaker. Obama's promises of a fairer, cleaner, more just and better liked America hypnotized them. The contrary evidence, both against Obama's claims and against Obama himself, failed to register with them. So they helped to propel him into the Oval Office.
I think it's fairly obvious that young Americans' experiences in the Obama Era don't testify to the godlike powers The Won implicitly claimed on the campaign trail. My fear is that they'll fail to draw the moral from them...and that the widening gulf between them and the prior generations will thwart any other source of instruction.
...ask any adults you respect whether they have more wisdom and insight into life now than they did ten years ago, let alone when they were your age. The answer will always be yes. (And any adult who has not gained wisdom over the course of a lifetime is not worth listening to.)
Which directly leads to my point: Did you ever wonder why people are far more likely to become conservative in their views and values as they get older?
When this rather devastating question is posed to liberals, leftists, progressives, Democrats -- you choose the label or group -- they answer that people get more selfish as they get older.
Progressives have to give this answer. There is no other response that enables them to avoid confronting the quite embarrassing fact that just about every adult, at every age of life, thinks he/she is wiser than when younger -- and as they accumulate wisdom they become more conservative.
So the liberal explanation -- that people get more selfish as they get older -- is not only insulting but also nonsense.
Now, one's age might be an arguable metric to apply to "wisdom and insight into life." But one's age does connote a certain degree of endurance. He who has endured forty, fifty, or sixty years on this tectonic plate, and is still upright and capable of meeting his own obligations, has confronted and defeated a proportional number of challenges, obstacles, and vicissitudes. He will know more about what life demands from an American adult, and what resources and degree of perseverance it demands, than any twenty-year-old could possibly know. As the saying goes, experience gives the test first and the lesson afterward.
It would be immensely beneficial to the political, social, and economic health of this country if young Americans were to sip from the springs of their elders' practical experiences.
Never mind our political postures, young folks; just ask us what we've had to do to meet the bills, keep the house from falling down, and stay out of jail. If you do enough of that, and supplement it with a bit of historical reading, it should tell you enough to allow your native intelligence to converge on a sensible political stance.
It's the array of trials we've endured, and what we've had to do to prevail over them, that will tell you all you need to know.