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Gerardo Castillo Ceballos, , Professor Emeritus of the School of Education and Psychology of the University of Navarra.

In search of lost youth

Tue, 29 Dec 2015 14:37:00 +0000 Published in AltoAragón Newspaper

In times before the present it was very easy to distinguish between a young man and an old man. It was enough to observe how one or the other dressed and spoke. Today, on the other hand, it is difficult to make that distinction, as a consequence of the fact that many old people (not all) tend to imitate the behavior and habits of the young.

It often happens that after a certain age (fifty, for example) one rebels against his new birthdays and does not understand why he is being congratulated; he would find it more logical to receive condolences.

Nowadays, we avoid marking age differences excessively with external signs (as opposed to the older people of the past, who dressed in black one bad day and did not change their color).

All this is understandable. What I consider incomprehensible, on the other hand, is to pretend to live as the young person one is no longer. Whoever does the latter will be living with his back to his reality staff, creating a possible identity crisis and generating confusion in his family and friends.

An old man who disguises himself as a young man will only become an object of derision. It is said that some parents, overwhelmed and desperate because they were not in tune with a young son, decided to give him a supposedly positive surprise: to appear before him dressed in hippie style. The son's reaction? Anger and disappointment: "At my age you can make a fool of yourself, but not at your age".

It is not simply an individual problem, as it is test that the words "old age" and "old man" are falling into disuse, having acquired a pejorative sense, being replaced by continuous euphemisms: third age, golden age, age of the elderly, etc. It is society itself that is adopting a false juvenalism.

This approach does not stand up to the test of absorbent cotton (of reality): "Youth has its truth and its beauty while it lasts. If one tries to stretch it beyond its limits, it becomes chronic, in the manner of diseases (...) By wanting to cling too much to the fleeting brightness of youth, one runs the risk of falling into the semi-neurotic state that psychoanalysts call "fixation of the past", and hence of not knowing how to welcome the precious gifts of maturity and old age. There is one thing more important than preserving oneself: to fulfill oneself" (Thibon, G.: 1978).

Going back to the youthful stage, living as if one were young, requires playing that role every day, leading a double life, which is often stressful and exhausting. Add to this the frustrations that come from not measuring up in some situations (for example, the inability to keep going up the stairs two at a time).

Each new age should be seen not as a shortcoming or a setback, but as an opportunity to continue to grow as a person. That opportunity continues to exist in old age, despite the onset of physical limitations. Thanks to the experience and wisdom acquired over the years, it is still possible to sow in new lands to reap new harvests.

For M. Pascua, youth is a value, and, therefore, it is outside of time. When the idea of youth is limited to the biopsychological characteristics of a certain chronological age, it is not possible to grasp the essence of the value of "being young". Youth is a virtue without age.

Because it is not a time of life, youth is unrepeatable; but because it is a state of the spirit, it has no expiration date. I like to remember a sentence of the master Azorin: "Old age is almost only the loss of curiosity".

What defines us as young is not the lack of ailments, but the willingness to face them. Youth is a positive attitude towards the passage of time. There are 90-year-olds and 20-year-olds. Every day we lose a bit of natural or biological youth, but we can also renew our youthfulness of spirit.

Therefore, the search for lost youth should not be directed to the past, but to the future. The secret is not in dyeing one's hair, getting rid of wrinkles, buying a sports car, dancing again in a discotheque or finding a girlfriend fifteen years younger, but in living from true hope, which for Piepper entails forgetting the "not anymore" to focus on the "not yet". It means exchanging the immediacy of pleasure for the hopeful and patient waiting for a good. 

Human hope responds to the yearning for happiness that exists in the hearts of all men. In the case of Christian hope, it is a virtue that strengthens us and orders our actions to God, source perfect of happiness.