What’s the greatest superpower? Which one would you choose?
Flight? Strength? Speed?
There’s really only one and by itself it circumscribes attributes of many others. It’s also the most elusive superpower of all. It’s youth and, like a cat’s nine lives, when it’s gone, it’s gone.
The second greatest superpower is arguably hard-earned experience, although I suspect that’s a way for older, more experienced people to make themselves feel better for having relinquished the keys to the Golden Kingdom. Youth doesn’t hang around, inexorably transforming into some other, transitional state simply by existing. It’s the human equivalent to an atomic half-life, each moment a mathematical expression of how much of the original thing is left before it becomes something else. Like all superpowers it can be misunderstood, corrupted, over-valued for superficial reasons and undervalued for others. Like many superpowered characters, it often presents itself flamboyantly, dramatically, dynamically, sometimes making a mess. It’s emotional, impractical, impulsive, sometimes petulant, and it’s the great engine of life.
It’s the one power everyone wants, ultimately. As we age, a desire for continued youth is the soul of implication. Where experience teaches us vital things that youth can never approach, it’s principally in our early years that we have an opportunity to get the biggest bang from new experiences, to try them without tarnish, without ossified preconceptions that accrue with age and obligation.
Youth eschews cynicism.
Considering youth from the perspective of what empowers a creative life, it’s important to apply some context. Sure, there are the outward, aesthetic aspects that appeal broadly: supple movements, feelings of unencumbered wonder, energies of all sorts, sleek physique, sharp thinking. From a creative perspective, however, there are deeper values, too. Youth offers clarity of first impressions. It’s dauntless and fearless; it’s often cautious about self aggrandizement in social contexts, and yet it’s unabashedly—and simultaneously—a showoff, endlessly seeking attention and praise. Youth wears bright colors and feels deep emotions. It soaks in experiences like rain, and it can’t help itself to send out shoots and runners from fertile Earth.
The extraordinary thing is that youth’s great gifts do not need to disappear completely as we age. Recalling the best parts of our lives we can choose to dismiss those days as naive, inexperienced dalliances, or we can choose to recall the mental freedom, energy, and joie de vivre of our younger selves. And pain. And heartache, too. The pain of growing up can be enormous, and the lessons from those hurts can be invaluable, even essential, to facilitating successful lives in years to come. Social acceptance can be a painful thicket of thorns, financial pressures can stifle and stultify, inexperience in the world can stymie and isolate even the most energetic of person. These hard feelings are not desirable in terms of being repeated, but they are useful in terms of their reflective messages to our future selves. Our own youthful years teach us to reconsider our present, especially if we’re listening to our selves from years past. Even as youth fades, as it must for us all, it’s the only superpower that all of us can say we’ve experienced. Do not forget the power flooding you during that time, no matter how hard it may have been for you when you were young. (We all know that it’s a hard time for many, for copious reasons.) Also, the next time you talk to someone shimmering in his or her early years, try to remember what it was like.
Try to remember and try to hold on.