It is understandable that people in their fifties and sixties comment uncomprehendingly about young people's behavior and customs. But nowadays it seems that in Japan there are even people in their thirties who refer to those fresh out of college as a new breed of human beings and say they cannot understand them at all. Youth always makes its appearance on the stage bearing new ideas and goes on to create a new society. It is important to provide young people with appropriate roles and allow them to perform them according to their own abilities.
Can you not feel
The wind blowing from the future,
The clear, pure wind?
It is a ray of light sent forth -
The determined south wind.
These lines are from the poem "To All My Students" by Kenji Miyazawa. The poem is a particular favorite of mine, and I feel that it captures accurately the distinctive qualities of youth. Some people say that Japanese young people today are spiritless and indifferent, but that is surely a transitory, abnormal phase of young people's lives, and not a cloud that will hang over them for good. As the poem tells us, youth is like a wind that blows from the direction of what is yet to come. It is therefore transparent, unclouded, and brisk. Youth celebrates a genuine, unsullied sense of justice, admires the noble and the beautiful, and is filled with vitality. Moreover, like the sun at dawn, youth is a fresh light that opens a new age.
When older people are not careful, they tend to forget that natural appreciation of the full vigor of young people. Older people too often come to consider the young as a nuisance, as immature, inexperienced people who are always apt to make a mess of things. Of course, there are also many older people who do try to understand the young, but even they sometimes seem perplexed about how to approach them and figure them out. There are also some who appear to believe that trying to understand the young means simply giving them free rein.
To truly understand young people is to grasp firmly what lies beneath their callowness, lack of refinement, and intensity, and to grasp that distinctive quality portrayed in Miyazawa's poem. Once one discerns that quality, one realizes that it is perfectly normal to have such obvious faults. In other words, one realizes that the immaturity and coarseness of youth spring from sheer exuberance. Fruit is hard and green before it ripens, yet has a juicy freshness for which it is valued. Ripe fruit may be sweet today, but is not for savoring later. That the young sometimes go too far is a perfectly natural result of their superabundant vitality.
Youthful ardor is like the strong south wind of the poem. In Japan the strong south wind of early spring revives the dormant, winter-withered fields and mountain foliage. Since it is a strong, gusty wind that suddenly arises one day when the air is still cold, for the most part people find it unpleasant. However, if one can overcome that feeling and think of the wind as one that will bring out the hard buds of the trees, then even the rattling of the windowpanes will seem a welcome harbinger.
Hence, searching out the true nature that lies beneath the surface is the way to understand youth. The older person who is neither too lenient nor disapproving is one who understands.
Albert Schweitzer said we ought not to acquaint young people with the ways of the world in such a way that we destroy their ideals, but in a way that strives to keep their ideals alive. All young people have ideals. They dislike compromise all the more because, consciously or not, they seek perfection. The real world, however, is complex and diverse, and many things cannot be clearly understood. All this perplexity frustrates young people, and sometimes they turn to antisocial behavior or a nihilist way of life. Youth carries with it this sort of danger.
The key to helping the young weather these crises and adopt a healthy and vigorous way of life is to entrust them with responsible tasks. I can give virtually any young person a responsibility and count on its successful accomplishment. Few things are more enjoyable than watching immature, inexperienced young people come to grips with new tasks for which they are responsible, and grow into mature, capable people.
It is important to entrust our fresh and vibrant young people with appropriate responsibilities that they have the ability to carry out on their own.
Copyright © by Rissho Kosei-kai. All rights reserved.