Character and the Conduct of Life: Practical Psychology for Everyman

By William McDougall | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XV
To Young People

THERE is a persistent tradition among older people that youth is the happiest period of life. This illusion is probably due to that fortunate distortion of our past which is deeply rooted in our constitutions and consists in remembering the glowing joyous moments more readily than those filled with pain or gloom. It is, however, unfortunate for the young people that we are so fond of parading this illusion before them. For it naturally tends to darken their outlook on life.

It is perhaps true that youth knows moments of more intense rapture; moments when all things seem to them "apparelled in celestial light." But such moments are rare and brief; and against them must be set off a multitude of distresses to which we become increasingly immune as our years advance. Youth is uncertain of itself and ignorant of the world and, therefore, even when it appears boastful and blustering or noisily cheerful, is full of doubts and anxieties about itself. It is liable to agonies of shame on ridiculously slight occasions; it makes absurd mistakes of the most gratuitous kind; it has to struggle against temptations of a strength such as it will not know

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