youth as an uncollapsed wave function

Youth is like an uncollapsed wave function.

Much that is alluring in a youthful thing—a child, a young woman, the bud of a rose, even a fresh morning—is that each has the potential to become so many forms of itself; that, in a way, all those possibilities exist at that moment in superposition.

We can imagine any number of futures for a young man: he can become all sorts of people, have all sorts of experiences. His life, in its youth, is like a sheet of paper not yet written on. His mind, his face, his skin, is fresh and uncreased by striving, unwounded by living.

Yet, the older something becomes, the more the possibilities for what it can still become are cut off. Until we, and it, narrow down to death.

Thus the sadness of life. For, when it is spent, the observer sees that, at that moment of youth, the path that will be taken can only ever be the one that was taken.

17 thoughts on “youth as an uncollapsed wave function

  1. I am not certain if I would use the term glamour, but the view that the availability of possibilities confer a special quality on youth is enticing. Having said that, as our own young one has steadily grown into a young young lady I find that my focus is turning more to her enjoyment and appreciation of the present, although not ignoring how to pave the path for her future. But that is how WE look at youth. That is how WE, ‘The Old Ones’ describe it. Who says we have the sole right to put forward a lockfast interpretation. That is not how our daughter and her friends see each other. We stand in ‘their’ future looking back at their present. That taints our definition, interpretation and description of ‘youth’. We seem unable to speak of it without submitting to some form of regret or another. By contrast they see themselves in the present. And one thing is for certain. They do not see themselves as ‘the youth’ except when they are in our presence. Our interpretation of youth is meaningless to them. So I ask, what is this youth. What is this ‘age’ thing. Is it getting old or getting older. If old is a term in reference to the start of something, or a life, then isn’t a 2 year old child old. I see that most people equate ‘old’ with some form of culmination of life, when speaking of living creatures. But an old chair does not mean it is ready to be discarded. If made well it will probably last another 100 years or more, or perhaps forever. I have exampled it above, but truth be told we could not argue that every stage of ‘youth’ is itself also ‘old’, but we could say it is ‘older’. So, I no longer see myself as old, but older. Older does not preclude anything, as ‘old’ might imply. I do not see my aging as the sole, or the main cause of the limitation in what I do. Much of the so called limitations are in fact rooted in how others see me and therefore assume I am more limited than I was the day before. I should hope to live another 20 years, at least. How many great minds do we know who by the age of 20 had achieved much of their masterpieces. Perhaps, with my 60 years of experience I can learn another craft in much less time. If I chose to write music I know I do not have to adhere to a specific genre. 60 years of life has thought me to be free of those limitations. In a way I have more freedom than a ‘youth’ who, in searching for a belonging, will elect to follow a particular, but limited path. And when my time finally comes I will not say I am ‘old’. I will ‘think’ that I have stopped getting older.

    1. it doesn’t seem to me that how youth and age see each other is symmetric: when the old look at the young they do so having once been young; the young regard the old with complete ignorance. The perspective from either end of a lifespan are of profoundly different landscapes. The old look forward to their ongoing journey having traversed the major part of the landscapes they will ever see and experience; for them the world is a known place. The young stand on the brink of their journey and, for them, the landscape ahead is full of mystery and wonder, and that puts a gleam in their eye; they have the possibility to imagine any journey and that makes the path they take freer and filled with serendipity.

      As for what the young and old can do that is unlimited but in different ways. The old know what they can do, they have a hinterland from which to draw, and a discerning vision where they can go and why. There is a deep power in this, a power that is entirely alien to the young; theirs is a life of discovery and adventure.

  2. OK, I said I would put forward a challenge and here I am. Well, in fact less of a challenge and more of a clarification (sorry to disappoint). I want to disagree, but what is it that I am disagreeing with. I am disagreeing with the poets interpretation of life. But, that is not how I have learnt to read poems. Poems and prose describe the poem, the author’s interpretation. They need only be judged on how successfully and beautifully deliver this interpretation. It matters not if we agree or not with the poet’s point of view, although it would be a bonus if we did. It matters that it has been delivered skillfully and elegantly etc etc. And this description of youth is most definitely beautifully delivered. So I am going to keep my disagreement to myself. You all know now anyway. There.

  3. All true. And it is folly to want to stay young, in the same way as one might try to capture a single moment forever. Taking no path to avoid choosing one. Age brings choice and responsibility, but leads to depth of insight and experience, and ultimately to self-knowledge.

    1. that “lamenting” is the ageing process—as you convert or your potential possible lives into your actual life. Most likely, you could only ever have taken one of those other possibilities, and by taking that you would have gone down a branch that would have removed, not only those other possibilities that you lament not taking, but all manner of possibilities that you have taken

  4. I agree about the older you become the fewer possibilities
    Remain , if only it were otherwise .
    Use every day wisely .

      1. I can’t decide how I feel about that Ricardo , youth for me is beauty and innocence , with age comes faded beauty and from my perspective , cynicism.

        1. I don’t look at life like that. Youth may be beauty and innocence, but it is also confusion and ignorance. And our beauty may fade, but it can be replaced by gnarly strength. If age is cynical, youth is just oblivious to what one should be cynical about *grin*. More seriously, might cynicism come from holding on too tight to what you expect life to be? Age is only faded beauty if you hold on too tight to lost youth. Age has a beauty of its own, though it may mostly lie beneath the skin.

    1. are you sure that you really would want it to be otherwise? Too many choices are a killer. It may be that the reason youngsters are so confused and so stressed out is because they have so many choices—when I was young I would get drunk just to avoid having to worry about which one to make for a while :D.

      your life would seem to me to be ‘going somewhere’—that somewhere is you becoming more fully yourself. As you choose a door to go through, and you close it behind you, you become a little bit more yourself. You may have less choice, but you’re deeper; sadder, but wiser

  5. A beautiful simile. To say I do not agree with it in its entirety would be to challenge you. So, ……… I challenge you.

    First I need to find a simile as beautiful and elegant to propose my ‘part’ counter view.

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