By SARAH CHANDLER
“It is good taste, and good taste alone, that possesses the power to sterilize and is always the first handicap to any creative functioning.” – Salvador Dali
Whether you call it innocence or immaturity, there seems to have always been a place for lightheartedness, exhilarating naiveté and all of the other pleasures of youth, even if that place is in an admonition along the lines of, “This is no place for behavior like that.” Our youth is perhaps the most integral part of who we are, because even after we have “surpassed” it, it remains the foundation of whatever we become, as well as perpetual fodder for whimsy and nostalgia.
Despite this, youth is not always well received in all of its manifestations because there is a time and place for everything, because we’ll understand when we’re older, because we need to grow up, because the kitchen is not a jungle-gym… We’ve heard all of this reasoning throughout the years. Perhaps that constitutes our youth more than anything else. But in the event that it does not, we can’t keep ignoring that there is something about this time in our lives, this Narnia or Terabithia, that remains alive in us until the day we die. This is our laughter, our irrational anger, our uncontrollable tears, our righteous indignation. This is our ability to sleep in a lecture hall, our ability to pick ourselves up when we skin our knees or lose our jobs, our ability to wonder and dream and create. And perhaps most importantly, our ability to appreciate and misuse ketchup squirt guns.
Youth culture today has definitely lost its former connotation of innocence, especially among members of the older generations. We are more tenacious (especially operating under 140 characters), innovative and lazy, an amalgam of contradictory terms, poor impulse control and dirty rap music. We have more potential, and more wasted potential, than ever.
Or do we? Perhaps the fault lies not in our culture (or our stars) but in ourselves for finding fault to begin with. We may no longer have the potential to accomplish the same things our predecessors did, but the world is no longer an arena in which those things would even be attempted. Should we fault our generation because none of us will be the first man on the moon?
History will always be relevant and important, but equally integral is the making of it. As we advance into the future we should take care not to become complacent, to define our advancements instead of being defined by them, to curtail our technologies rather than our dreams. In the Internet there is the potential for immortal youth to flourish in tandem with mounting wisdom. With Instagram we remain always in search of beauty and wonder in the world. With Twitter we learn to concisely express creative ideas. With Facebook we learn that sometimes a social media venture can run itself into the ground and we should all just quietly disappear from what has become a nonstop barrage of ads for facial cream.
The globalization of intellectual(ish) discourse has had a leveling impact; anyone can find a community of like-minded thinkers and retweet them, mitigating the necessity of original thought. But this does not mean that the global conversation is doomed to circle-jerk into oblivion. We have the responsibility not to malign our emerging culture, but to maturely, and with balance — balance, always balance — direct our indomitable youth toward its boundless intrinsic potential.
Then, and only then, can we be on fleek.