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❚ reality ❚ aging ❚ materialism ✱ Robert Johnson

materialism - not a solution for the unlived youthfulness

The American ideal of perpetual youthfulness dies very hard in us. We are so materialistic and so enamored of the power of will that we refuse to relinquish what is irretrievably out of our reach. There are not enough Adidas shoes, Hawaiian shirts, or exercise machines in the world to fill the middle-aged man’s longing for his lost youth. Civilization has cost us a huge portion of unlived life in payment for the high specialization it represents.

Any civilized person pays a price for the culture and civilization he has wrested from the raw material of his character. To attempt to live out these unlived sections of ourselves (to take the hungering of his unlived life) literally is to fall into Faust’s error and end Part I of our lives in depression and misery. Few misconceptions of modern man cost him so heavily as this tendency toward literalness. If Goethe understood this in the early nineteenth century, it is a hundred times more urgent for us to understand it today.

… there is no literal solution to unlived life (sobering and inescapable fact). The water that has passed under the bridge has indeed passed us by forever in any external sense. Many a copy of Goethe’s earlier work “The Sorrows of Young Werther” has been found beside a suicide. If Faust were to stop at this point it would would have much the same effect upon us.