Teenagers

How daft the teenager, straight out of college, who believes they’re going to change the world. How idiotic the youngster who longs to impose their minuscule understanding on all of society. Yesterday they were kids, playing with toys; today they’re our new challengers, seeking to bring to life a pious utopia they just read about, real only in the author’s head.

But soon enough that bold enthusiasm will come crashing down around them, as they suddenly find themselves a spouse and a parent. Some, of course, will try to impose their iron will on their families too, playing little despots in their circle of influence, convinced that this makes them more authentic. But most will be forced to reflect: actually, I was an ignoramus, thinking I’d have any power or influence over others at all.

By the time they’re parents to teenagers, it will long have been made apparent that their dreams of imposing order on whole nations was pure folly. They can’t even impose order on their household, without behaving like a tyrant. Brazen teenagers with their newfound confidence and angst will test those egalitarian ideals daily, forever complaining despite their best efforts that their parents are unjust and unfair, always favouring the other one, telling one off, but not the other. Meanwhile, their siblings complain of exactly the same.

Soon enough they will return humbled. Once, they believed they would be able to impose their ideals on nations of twenty-million people, and after that the world. Now they find those ideals tested daily. Some of them will run away, overburdened by these challenges. Some will bear them patiently. The cognisant will at last realise that all they once intended to impose on others was supposed to reform their own soul.

Some will respond to that call and look inward, recognising every trial is from their Lord. But others, when tested, will simply abandon the way, believing it to be faulty and broken. For this is the nature of our species: we’re arrogant and haughty, thinking ourselves capable of judging the world on the basis of our infinitesimal knowledge. We’re no different from those daft teenagers straight out of college, after all.

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