On the Pleasures of No Longer Being Very Young by G.K. Chesterton
In the essay On the Pleasures of no Longer being Very Young by G.K. Chesterton we have the theme of youth, maturity, innocence, conflict and happiness. Taken from his All is Grist collection the reader realises after reading the essay that Chesterton may be exploring the differences between youth and maturity. A young person may not necessarily have the same beliefs as an older person. Partially due to the fact that they have not yet lived their lives to the same extent as an older person. It is easier for an older person to believe in proverbs as they know that they are true. Whereas a younger person has little or no time to waste on what he or she does not believe in or understand. There is a large gap between the young and the old that does not appear to be getting any smaller. Chesterton argues that an older person is happier because they are more equipped for life. Should they get stuck in life they have the advantage of taking a proverb and understanding their position. The same is not true for a younger person.
What is also interesting about the essay is the fact that Chesterton assumes that as a person gets older their humour or ability to laugh at the world also becomes greater. Things that were once serious to an older person when they were younger can now be laughed at. It is as though with age a person reaches a milestone and reflects on life in a different manner. One that the younger person is unable to do. In many ways Chesterton may be suggesting that older people live in a ‘fool’s paradise.’ A place where they can harm no one and are safe to live their life with their own beliefs. Many of which have been kindled through the passage of old age. The continued use of proverbs throughout the story and their benefit to older people may also be significant. Proverbs have tradition and tradition has a degree of truth attached to it. Hence Chesterton can see the benefits of proverbs for those who are older. The young on the other hand have no time for proverbs as they cannot connect to an adage that means nothing to them. And will mean nothing to them till they themselves are older.
There is also a sense that Chesterton is comfortable in old age. He does not appear to be defeated in any way. Something which is often the case when it comes to an older person. Chesterton is quite happy to find a proverb for his predicament and to believe it. Though some critics might suggest that Chesterton is out of touch with the realities of youth. He still nonetheless is happier than a younger man or woman. Proverbs also act to serve as wisdom. However the problem is that those who do not understand the proverb (the youth) have no value for proverbs as they do not see the benefit of doing so. Chesterton also goes on to argue that young people cannot necessarily appreciate new things. As they have no idea as to what the old things may have been. They are if anything innocent in life. An innocence that will lessen as time passes and the young become older. The young also appear to be in conflict with themselves as they do not have the information at hand to progress with their lives. In reality they have no understanding, due to their youthful age, as to what it is like to live.
It is also interesting that Chesterton does not associate wisdom with old age. There are some of an elder age who may not be wise but continue to struggle through life. For Chesterton a wise person is one who believes in proverbs and is able to equate them to their lives. To take the benefit of others and use it for their own advantage. As Chesterton appears to be doing. There is no doubting that Chesterton is happy and he most likely attributes his happiness to his understanding of the many proverbs he has come across during his life time. For him they answer the many questions or conflicts that Chesterton encounters during life. Whereas the young person who does not believe in the advantage of proverbs will inevitably live a more difficult life. That is until they themselves grow older and realise the advantage of proverbs. Till then the young will remain impatient and somewhat lost on the journey through life. Not adhering to the advice of people who may be older and who are happier. Wisdom for Chesterton comes from adherence to proverbs and with adherence comes happiness.