I remember once I went for an inter religions seminar/conference hosted by the National Association of Catholic students. As I approached the seminar hall in the company of colleagues, there was a loud ovation inside. We doubled our steps and rushed into the hall to see what was going on. And behold right in front of everyone, a woman of at least sixty five years stood gesticulating and pointing at a nicely decorated banner she wore on her chest. On it was written, “I am a girl! I am always young and pretty” “Je suis une jeune fille! Je reste tourjours jeure et jolie”, Yes, probably, she must have been very conscious of the “wrinkles” “Gullies” and “Gutters” on her face which make-ups could no longer bull-doze through. At another occasion, I visited a convent in south Eastern part of Nigeria and was delighted to notice how one of the inmates in her early seventies posed as the youngest! Across these incidents, one thing struck me. It is not so easy to draw with a mathematical precision, a line of demarcation between the young and the old.
In a general sense, therefore one can be young at every age. However, in a specific sense and in our Nigerian context, one is considered a youth if he or she is between the age of six and thirty. This is a period in person’s life when there is rapid physical change and development, intellectual change and awakening, mental alertness and a search for the truth and meaning of emotional development and upsets resulting in sudden changes in mood and behaviour…” The changes are meant to be from childhood to adulthood and these are accompanied by a feeling of growing up as well as assumptions of what it really means to grow up.
Within this period of lifetime, young people should always have before them the secret of success not only in their own private and personal understandings but in the overall project of registering their identity in making the society more habitable. This secret is two dimensional: Hardwork and sound morality in the words of Bernard Fonlon “Of all powerful things that can close the road, so completely as the love of ease, or rather that lethargy that shows itself on the aversion for all exertion, entailing pain and hardship for labour is the law of success, and the price of progress can be paid only in the currency of hard work”.
Far more significantly, effort is nature’s law: This is predicated on the fact that it is only by walking that a child learns to walk; only by its exercise that any faculty can develop; only by sweat that bread is won. Big brain must rot like useless timber except their possessors are prepared to rack them. It is also on record that work has made, work is making and work shall make the great men of the world. Genius is nothing but an infinite capacity for taking pains. Or as they say, 99% perspiration and 1% inspiration.
On the other side of the spectrum is morality. It was Victor cousin (1792 – 1867) who in his “Cours de philosophie” expounded the tenet that “We need morality for morality’s sake” (“il fait de la morale pour la morale”). And so, even if allegedly the world seems to have lost the proper sense of morality understood in the context of religion, there is still need for man to establish a high grade of morality for the sake of morality. Nevertheless, when we come to talk about those men who stand in the world’s history, as the best example of moral beauty, even the most aution Christian rationalist must admit that our Lord holds a position that is peerless, matchless and unique. On another note, a friend once asked me what I thought was the secret of Ghandi’s life. I answered without hesitation… His deep faith in God. The guiding principle of his life, was, “God is Truth.”
One thing interestingly significance in human life is that morality is something we cannot claim to possess without a deeper knowledge of God, for God is the objective standard of moral norms.
Against this backdrop, I wish to express the clarification that our identity as youth is not determined by age but our hard work, and moral beauty which is in accordance with the objective standard of moral norms. Moral beauty invites the grace of God so as to give success to the work of our hands.