What Is Youth?

Anyone who knows me can acknowledge that I enjoy working with young people. I love them, and am very concerned about their well being. I love working with them because I enjoy their vigor for life, their tireless search for meaning in life, and their enthusiasm about discovering what the next day, week, month or year holds. The desire to look for meaning in life is analogous to the attempt to look for the meaning of a text; just as we want to know the meaning of a text through the author’s view, we refuse to accept life’s meaning without God in it. God is the author of life, and we want to know life’s meaning through His own eyes; that is a sign that we bear the stamp of God, His seal. I want to be part of your life, my dear young friends, because I want to accompany you in this exciting journey of finding that meaning.
With that being said, I want to dedicate the next few posts to them in the hope of addressing some of the issues they face daily in life. I hope these posts prove useful to their needs and help answer some of their questions.
Youth is not only a period of life that corresponds to a certain numbers of years, it is a time given by Providence to every person and given to him as a responsibility. During this time, every youth searches, like the young man in the gospel (Mark 10, 17-31), for answers to basic questions. No youth want to be like Ivan Ilych in Leo Tolstoy story who thought he could live life as if it has no meaning. No one wants to approach life as having no meaning like Meursault in A. Camus’ The Stranger to only face the cruelty of his mindset later. Youth is when we look for answers to our questions, and the meaning of life. It is when we look for God with our whole being. It is when we ask whether we can experience God’s existence. It is when we want to know why there is evil, or why people do bad things. It is a period where we have time to question why food, video games, time with friends, TV shows don’t satisfy our deepest longings. My dear fellow young friends, the fact you are asking these questions means that you are looking for something deeper. It means that you don’t want to settle for something shallow. You want answers and you want truth. Youth not only searches for the meaning of life but also for concrete way to go about living it. You want to try things and are very adventurous. It is my conviction that every mentor, parents, and pastors must be aware of these characteristics. They must learn how to identify them in young people.
Are these questions simply empty dreams that fade away as we become older? No! We were created for something great, for infinity. That fact does not erase with old age. As I have quoted multiple times from my favorite Saint Augustine, “our hearts are restless till they find their rest in you”. Because human beings are made in the image of God, we do this in a unique and special way. We reach out for love, joy and peace. So we can see how absurd it is to think that we can truly live by removing God from the picture! God is the source of life. To set God aside is to separate yourselves from that source and, inevitably, to deprive yourselves of fulfillment and joy. Without the Creator, the creature fades into nothingness. In the very asking of questions lie the search for God. Don’t settle for anything other than the truth.
If at every age of this life people desires to be his own person, to find love, during his youth he desires it even stronger. However, the desire to be one’s own person must not be understood as license to be anything without exception. It is the time to engage in discussion and learning to discover what it really means to be free. I guarantee that rationality and the grace of God are sufficient to lead you, dear young friends, to see that there is no freedom outside the Gospels. Unlike what many have said about you, my dear friend, I know that you are willing to be corrected. You want to be told yes or no and be explained the reasons behind it. You need guides, and you need it close at hand. That’s why you turn to authority figures as a search for human warmth and a willingness to walk along the right path. Listen to those wiser than you.
So, if there is a problem of youth as many have argued, it is profoundly personal. In life, youth is when we come to know ourselves. It’s a time we are deeply hunger for communion. It’s a time we come to realize that life has meaning only when we come to freely give ourselves as a gift. That is the origin of all vocation— priesthood, married life or a career. However, many young people are not seeing that today. Utilitarianism ad hedonism are in the forefront of all newspapers and every internet page. They have very few good examples to live by. So the deeper problem is an adult problem rather a youth problem. It is time when adults need to step up to build a better future generation.

For this reason, dear young friends, I encourage you to strengthen your faith in God. You are the future of society! During this beautiful period of your life, I urge you to study hard and be passionate about the truth. Christ is the ultimate answer to the questions you are asking. He is the true love you are so much in love with. Make him the background of your search. Make Him your point of reference. Many people have no stable points of reference on which to build their lives, and so they end up deeply insecure. You don’t want to be one of them. There is a growing mentality of relativism, which holds that everything is equally valid, that truth and absolute points of reference do not exist. But this way of thinking does not lead to true freedom, but rather to instability, confusion and blind conformity to the fads of the moment. As young people, you need a solid point of reference to help you to make choices and upon which to build your lives. you need direction like a young plant that needs solid support until it can sink deep roots and become a sturdy tree capable of bearing fruit. Christ is that support. Don’t be afraid to entrust yourself to Christ. An important day in your young life, dear young friends, is the day on which you become convinced that Christ is the only friend who not disappoint you and on whom you can always count.

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The Important of Teleological Thinking

There was a time in the history of the Western world, no one would do, think, act on anything without considering the purpose and end for which he is doing, acting, thinking that way. There were a time people thought in term of end and purpose. They did not do something because they have the capacity and means to do. They did something because they wanted to accomplish something that elevates the human person to a more flourishing state. So, their thinking was not simply people oriented, it was specifically human dignity oriented. At that period, leaders and thinkers could see a little further than their own toes. Their needs were not put before the human race’s needs. Scientists and philosophers of old would not do something merely because it brings pleasure to people. However, since Descartes came up with his method in the 16th century, conceiving actions in term of end and purpose have been going downhill. Scientists and politicians do and say things because they want to fulfill their own selfish interest, be it fame, wealth and power. They no longer conceive things in term of Aristotle’s four causes. The point I want to stress here is that without those four causes, especially the last one, we cannot be anything but a boat on the deep sea without a captain. In this imbroglio, we are nothing but sheep without a shepherd, or wayfarer without a destination.

What are Aristotle’s four causes and do they make sense? The first of the four causes are the Material cause: “that from which a thing comes to be. Material cause is the raw material (matter) out of which something is made. For instance, in the case of human being, our material cause is body. In the case of a table, it is wood. The second of the four causes is the Formal cause is the form i.e. that which makes matter a particular type of thing. What allows us to recognize something as a particular type. In our case, our soul is considered the formal cause. For a table, it is its shape (eidos). What allows us to recognize human beings as human being is because they possess a soul. The soul allows us to look a certain way (upright posture), and act a certain way. The formal cause is what allows us t distinguish a table from a chair though they are both made of woods. We recognize and are able to identify a table because of its shape—its formal cause. The third cause is the Efficient cause. It is what initiates something, or what brings it into existence, or as Aristotle put it, efficient cause is the source of the primary principle of change or stability. An artist who creates a piece of art is the efficient cause of that piece of art. The person who comes up with the idea of a great business plan is the efficient cause of that business. And the fourth cause is the Final cause. It is the end, the purpose (telos) for which something is made. The final cause allows us to ask ‘what something is for’. What we considered at this stage is the ‘why’ of a thing. What is the why of a table? What is the why of a human being? What is the why of the universe? This can be asked about anything.

Now what interests me and the reason why I am writing this article is because our culture, apart from some Christian’s groups, completely rejects this way of thinking. As a result, we are having all the confusions we currently have in our conception of arts, ethics, traditional understanding of marriage, friendship etc. As soon as we return to this way of thinking, all our confusions and unending arguing everything would make sense. Sadly, not knowing the ultimate why of something does not hamper us from doing the thing, but deep down something fundamental is lacking. For example, even though I may not know what I want to accomplish in writing this article, I can still write an awesome article that speaks to many. It may happen that this article helps someone to see the light, but the disaster it causes later may surpass the few people it reaches. Its disastrous consequence may outdo any good help it may bring. Now someone may say that I could never predict all the consequence of an action, be it an article, a scientific discovery, or a sentence I utter. I agree. Our limited mind can never see all the consequences of an action. However, some of the consequences are so evident, no one can say they could not see them coming.

Thinking teleologically gives shape, meaning, and direction to a story, be it our story, an imaginary story written in a book, or a story heard on the radio or TV. If we turn on the TV for the 5pm news and find a reporter explaining something, would we get the point he is making without knowing why he is telling the story. Had Dante not understood ‘why’ Virgil wanted to take him through hell, purgatory, and heaven, would he actually trust him through these scary roads? Had M. L. King, M. Ghandi not clearly defined their purpose during their respectives civil right movement, would they have accomplished anything? If a business owner does not define his long and short term goals, could he really prevail in this competitive market? Goal/purpose/end defines the direction we go. We don’t go to Europe by going through the North Pole, or the Bermuda triangle. Ask C Columbus, he will tell you that if one wants to reach India, they have a specific direction they need to follow otherwise that person will end up in the Americas. Our society has lost its sense of purpose. As a result, relativism and terrorism rule. It is purpose that helps people to flourish or accomplish ultimate happiness, or leads them closer to the true, the good, and the beautiful. Nothing should be done because we have the capacity to do it. This has been the failure of most scientists in the last century. They believe because they can do something, they must do it. Something should be pursued only if it helps human beings to be more human. Otherwise, it should be abandoned even if we have the means to do.

Do you think our (governments and churches’) plans include elevating the human person to a higher standard of being human?