The young bloke is away from work again today. Sick. He's sick quite often. He's only 17 and you could wonder if he's slacking off a bit. My son, 15 and big and strong, gets a headache that keeps him home from school about once a fortnight. And that turns into a 2 day migraine every second or third time. Maybe he just wants time off school. Maybe not. At 17 I was clinically depressed. I didn't know it. There was no such thing as depression. But every night after school I would come home and walk a couple of miles around the paddocks sunk in thought, sourly reliving the day. It seemed the only way to survive my last year at school.
Being young is hard work. Especially for those who are bright. If you are intelligent enough not to be sucked in by all the consumerist propaganda of the media, it can be hard to find a reason to keep going. What is there to believe in in this ecologically threatened world? Where is there hope as we constantly fear global war? Why study hard when there doesn't seem much hope of a job? And why keep on living anyway? As soon as you slow down and turn off the music, these unpleasant questions and plenty of others, bubble up.
They are not the questions of those who are ill or foolish. They are the questions of the intelligent. Those who do not face these questions are the ones who are foolish, if not ill! They are the ones to fear in the future for they are the ones who will want material goods or some other personal gratification at all costs, regardless of what society needs.
I don't have answers for my son. I can only encourage compassion and integrity. The best way I can do that is to live it out with him. It's hard, for I struggle to be hopeful about life. I struggle to be patient with others, which is one of the foundations of compassion. And there is the temptation to let go of the goal of integrity and just live for my own wants. Yet it is in these struggles that the hopes of the world lie.
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