“You have only a few years in which to live really, perfectly, and fully. When your youth goes, your beauty will go with it, and then you will suddenly discover that there are no triumphs left for you . . . Youth! Youth! There is absolutely nothing in the world but youth!”
— Lord Henry Wotton, The Picture of Dorian Gray
Like Oscar Wilde, I’ve become sensitive to the aesthetic, caring not just for that which is good but also for that which is beautiful. Sometimes, the latter can take precedence over the former.
It’s an irrational thing. There exists no incorruptible beauty (not of this world, anyhow), and everything we know is impermanent. Take youth, for instance. A healthy outlook would embrace youth as long as it lasts, make the most of it, and whenever the time comes, accept gracefully its inevitable fading. Why, then, do we cling to that which cannot be kept?
Yet with tears do I regard the passing of youth, that which once was and will never be again. I mourn for the wilted flowers. I mourn for opportunities gone, for the loss of possibilities, for things left unsought when they were most sweet and most attainable. I mourn not only for the good things but for the bad, for the pleasures, passions and follies that give charm to our tragic existence. Woe to the righteous youth. Well would they have done to heed the words of the Teacher: “Be not overly righteous, and do not make yourself too wise; why should you destroy yourself?”
Indulge yourself when you are young, deny yourself when you are old—that is the natural way of things. Deny yourself when you are young, indulge yourself when you are old—that is contemptible and backwards. Indulge yourself always—that leads only to ruin. Deny yourself always—that is the only path for a righteous youth, lest in addition to losing his youth, he loses his soul as well (a double loss, the loss of both worldly and spiritual things).
It would seem that youth is the time to sin beautifully. Only take heed the words of the Teacher: “Do not be overly wicked, neither be a fool; why should you die before your time?”