Last week I stumbled across a video on Facebook that reawakened within me a passion from my youth that I had almost forgotten existed. The video I refer to highlighted the misrepresentation of women within modern media in America and as I watched it I felt an anger stir within me that took me back to a time in my youth when I was an opinionated politics graduate who had a number of strong and frequently voiced opinions on subjects such as feminism, equality, poverty and war.
As I got older, I began to encounter comments from an older generation who seemed to find my youthful passion for a better world amusing and even received comments such as ‘haven’t you grown out of that yet?’ It was almost as if some people viewed my ‘idealistic’ take on the world as nothing more than a youthful optimism, which the realities of life would soon knock out of me.
It seems in retrospect that I took this on board and as I got older I found my passion for justice and equality fade somewhat and an acceptance of the way things are slowly creep in to its place. I started to believe that perhaps my views were in the main wishful thinking and in reality such ideals were better left in the university lecture hall.
Passion rebuilds the world for the youth. It makes all things alive and significant ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
As if the message not to forget the passion of my youth was knocking firmly at my door, someone recently laughed when I mentioned that I was reading ‘The Essential Gandhi’. When I asked why this was funny, I was told that Gandhi was fashionable in the seventies which I took, rightly or wrongly, as an insinuation that my interest in his views was somehow outdated.
All of this got me thinking. Why is it that often our passion for justice and equality is so fervent in our youth but in many seems to fade away as we get older? Is it because realism kicks in? Or is it because we change as we age and feel less passion for making the world a better place.
The duty of youth is to challenge corruption ~ Kurt Cobain
As I pondered this I couldn’t help thinking of two people who have hugely inspired my beliefs and views on the way things should be and who interestingly seem to present exceptions to this idea that passion is solely the recourse of the young.
There is of course Mahatma Gandhi, born in 1869 in British India, who became the pre-eminent political and ideological leader of India during the Indian independence movement and pioneered a form of resistance to tyranny through mass civil disobedience, based on the principle of nonviolence. His example of nonviolence helped India to gain independence in 1947 and inspired movements for civil rights and freedom across the world. Gandhi continued to advocate for freedom until 1948 when he was assassinated at the ripe old age of 78.
Then there is Nelson Mandela who was jailed for 27 years, for his role in anti-apartheid activities. In 1993 Mandela was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his work for the peaceful termination of the apartheid regime and for laying the foundations for a new democratic South Africa and in 1994, at the age of 77, he was inaugurated as the country’s first black president. Mandela went on to play a leading role in the drive for peace in other spheres of conflict.
Both Gandhi and Mandela effected widespread change, no doubt as a result of a passion and purpose that did not fade with time. So why is it that passion in many seems to wither with age when some of the greatest people of our time have shown the impact that perseverance can have? As we age and come to understand the barriers to change better, is it simply a fear of failure that stops us from even trying?
The young do not know enough to be prudent, and therefore they attempt the impossible — and achieve it, generation after generation ~ Pearl S. Buck
Are there things that you were passionate about in your youth that you’ve long since forgotten about? Or have you stayed true to the passions and beliefs of your youth and effected change as a result. Either way I’d love to hear from you so please let me know by leaving a comment below.