Has the World Tamed You?
We often hear people talk about the courage of youth. They say that young people are fearless and believe that they're unbreakable until around their mid-twenties. It is talked about as a positive disposition at some times, and a negative one at others. On the one hand, people argue that youth are more willing to take dangerous and risky chances which can put them and others at risk. On the other hand, young people take this same courage and use it to pursue their dreams, goals, and desires. So what is it that happens in the mid-twenties? It is my belief that this is the time when the world seeks to tame people.
So what do I mean by this? Well, the best story that I can draw from is one told by the Stoic philosopher, Seneca. In the following story Seneca talks of two lions being let loose in a gladiator arena, one lion tame, and the other wild. He says…
“Sending a lion into the arena with his mane gilded, tired by the handling he has been given in the process of being forced to submit to this embellishment, is a very different thing from sending in a wild one with his spirit unbroken. Bold in attack, as nature meant him to be, in all his unkempt beauty, a beast whose glory it is that none can look on him without fear, he stands higher in peoples eyes than the other, docile, gold-leaf coated creature.”
There are so many ways to dissect this passage, but I’d like to start by asking you a simple question; which lion are you? Are you the “gold-leaf”, tamed lion? Or are you the wild lion, with his spirit unbroken? The reason I ask is because Seneca is not necessarily talking about lions, but rather he is talking about us. He’s talking about the millions of people who's spirits have been broken. He’s talking about those people who were once free and courageous, but have now been tamed by the world and have thus lost their true nature.
If you were to take an honest look over your life, would you agree that at one stage you believed in yourself more, and were more courageous? Would you agree that there was a time where you chased your dreams, and went after your goals with all that you had? Was there a time when you believed in the good things in life? Did you ever believe that you were unbreakable, and that you could achieve anything if you truly wanted to? Well, if you feel like I’m speaking some truth about your life here, then I’d like to ask you a simple question; what happened? What tamed you? What has led you to believe that you can’t have what you want? Who has made you believe that most people will hurt you? How did you come to think that it is foolish to chase your dreams, and to take risks in life? See, there seems to be a time, as I said earlier, around the mid-twenties, where we lose our zest for life, and we are encouraged to “grow up”. People tell us we need to find a stable job, stop spending so much time on “frivolous things”, settle down, and stop taking such big risks.
Imagine all the people who could have changed the world if they had decided to not be tamed, and instead to live as the person they were created to be? Imagine how much better this world could be if people decided to keep their child-like zest for life? How would your own life be different if you were still curious, courageous, and passionate? How could your life be better if you had decided to take more risks? What if you focused not on being safe, but on following what makes you happy and excited in life?
Isn’t it true that the people who have kept this passion for life are the same people who we look up to in society? Imagine if Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. had been tamed when he was young? Imagine how different the world would be if Abraham Lincoln had decided not to strive for a better future? What would the world look like if Gandhi had been tamed in his youth? But even though I’m now discussing these mega-figures of history, it’s important to realize that you don’t have to reach that level of influence to have an incredible impact on the world. Just living as the person who you want to be, and striving after your own personal vision is enough to completely change the world for the better.
I want to ask you to find within yourself that wild, untamed lion that Seneca talks about. Find the youth within you, and reignite that fire that once burned, compelling you to move toward a better and brighter future. Remember that you were not meant to be mediocre. You were not meant to live a small life. Within you lies the most brilliant potential, and whether you know it or not, you have the ability to live with courage and unbridled passion. I want to encourage you to spend the time reintroducing yourself to that youth that you left behind. As you do, I know that you’ll be filled with a vigor and excitement that will carry you forward in your journey, and you’ll never look back.