The Youth and The Elderly (A Commentary on Aristotle’s Rhetoric
Understand the natural inclinations of the youth and the elderly to avoid their pitfalls and live a successful life.
Aristotle wrote about everything under the sun. He was naturally inquisitive and his vast body of work is the manifestation of that curiosity. As with mostly everything he writes about, he accurately puts into words what I have thought all along. The differences between characteristics held by the youth and the elderly are no exception.
The youth are naturally full of energy, but lack experience. Their energy is due, partly, to this inexperience. They don’t know enough about life to be cynical. For most young people, life hasn’t let them down enough (yet) to develop coping mechanisms. Unfortunately, this experience is one they must have first hand. Hearing about life from the elderly has its benefits, but it does not compare to experiencing it first hand.
On the other hand, the elderly naturally possess lower energy levels, on average. But they are rich with experience. They tend to develop a cynical perspective on life because life has let them down on many occasions.
The elderly are “sure about nothing and under-do everything.” They develop humility and a reserved demeanor. This approach to life isn’t bad, per se, but it doesn’t lend itself well to pursuing the outlandish, just-out-of-reach goals we need to become successful at life. I believe the best approach, considering this natural inclination, is to recognize that it exists. This is the first step. The next step is to take specific actions that move you forward- passed this natural inclination to “under-do everything.”
The elderly pursue what is useful more than what is noble. There is a selfish element to this. We are all products of both our genetics and our environment. This selfish inclination is due to our environment. I have seen quite the opposite in the elderly so I will disagree with Aristotle here. However, Aristotle was more inquisitive than I find myself to be. I can assume he had observed more people much more closely than I’ve ever had.