Saturday, 24 November 2012

Young People Know Everything

I think if I have any real talent at all in life, it probably lies in my ability to misinterpret lofty ideas in such a way that when I try and recall them later they don't resemble the original concept in any way, shape or form.

One such concept I may have totally misconstrued is the concept of 'Platonic Ideals', which, as far as I can recall, involves the theory that there exists in the world of ideals a 'perfect' template for everything in existence, which includes objects like chairs, tables, and plants. Probably the best way to illustrate it is when you consider a circle. No perfect circle exists in the real world - but it does in the world of Platonic Ideals.

When I apply this theory to people, I find myself coming to a disturbing conclusion - young people do know everything!

I know this is hard to swallow, but when I consider the most wide-eyed, optimistic and morally righteous version of myself, it probably existed around the age of 18. At this age the Platonic Ideal I constructed for myself would have consisted of some free-lovin', cosmic, bohemian beatnik-type sitting in coffee houses writing intense poetry and being talked about in hushed tones of admiration by other patrons.

Of course, this scenario is for an ideal world. I find trouble usually arises when trying to apply utopian fantasies to the everyday. The real world bohemian Trevor's poetry would most likely be terrible, the other patrons would consider me a poser rather than a delicate genius and the baristas would most likely spit in my coffee. 

The problem with having a vision for a perfect world and a perfect version of yourself is that the rest of the seven billion people on the planet also have their own ideas of perfection. When these other ideas clash with your own Platonic Ideal, then you're forced to deal with the most adult and mundane of realities - the dreaded 'compromise'.

I went to university in my late twenties and as an older student who had lived a bit, I often found the degree of passion on both sides of student politics to be amusing. Being passionate on campus is one thing, but I often wonder how these embryonic politicians fared after university trying to sell their ideas to a marketplace full of self-centred and often ill-informed citizens. Did they have to compromise their core beliefs in order to survive in the world of politics? Sadly, I think the answer is probably 'yes'. 

Winston Churchill once said "If you're young and a Conservative you don't have a heart, and if you're old and a Liberal you don't have a brain." I don't necessarily agree with this, but I know what he was getting at. People probably do get a little bit more cautious as they get older and being young is the only time you really have to outwardly challenge the status quo.

The thought of anybody ever referring to me as being conservative still fills me with dread, but I don't really think the answer to anything lies in the absolute extremes. A younger version of myself probably did. One of the best illustrations of taking your beliefs to an absolute extreme that I found poignant was in the show 'Six Feet Under' where Nate's hippie girlfriend Lisa tried to shoo ants out of her house rather than have to kill them. To me this seems like taking your beliefs too far. Maybe for some people it isn't.

I suppose the best use in life for the Platonic Ideal of your younger self is as an anchor - something to return to and measure yourself by when life doesn't turn out like you imagined. Maybe someone you once loved marries someone else, or you're forced to settle for a job just to pay the bills rather than indulge your passions. It's important to remember that although the younger version of yourself may have been the purer form - it was only that way because it had never been tested against the real world.

Probably a lot of people don't like the younger versions of themselves anymore, but bad hairstyles and fashion sense aside, they still were once you and therefore shouldn't be dismissed.

I think if I visited the bohemian-beatnik version of myself in the world of ideals, I wouldn't have any harsh words to say to him. I would, however, wait for him to go to the bathroom and then go and spit in his coffee. It would give me a sense of satisfaction to dilute some of his smugness and ultimately he wouldn't know any better.

At the end of the day if anybody is going to spit in my coffee, I'd want it to be me.


  1. Young people tend to follow the fashions of their peers (hence peer pressure). Like having a tattoo.
    Today having a tattoo somewhere on your body seems almost to be the norm, whereas in my day, it was usually restricted to drunken sailors.
    Is tattooing just a young person's thing? How many older people get them?
    Should mum and I get one?

    1. Most people I know have tattoos. I feel sorry for the sailors of yor who had to actually prove themselves and sail the Atlantic or some such thing before getting one. I suppose there is nothing stopping you and mum - but you might be too wrinkly and your tattoos would end up being smudged.