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A man can never quite understand a boy, even when he has been the boy. Options
Daemon
Posted: Thursday, June 28, 2012 12:00:00 AM
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A man can never quite understand a boy, even when he has been the boy.

Gilbert Chesterton (1874-1936)
stefanomarcelli
Posted: Thursday, June 28, 2012 6:48:33 AM

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I completely agree. The simple reason is that the adult has been another boy in another time, place, situation. Furthermore the boy is individually younger (e.g. my daughter who is eleven old) than the adult (e.g. me, I am fifty three old), but considering the age of the human species in its entirety the boy is older than the adult (my daughter born in 2000 is older than me born in 1958). In fact we are spontaneously used to consider the prehistoric men younger than us, and this is true. So also the modern man cannot completely understand the prehistoric.
pedro
Posted: Thursday, June 28, 2012 6:54:53 AM
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I was prehistoric when I was born, so I don't remember.
percivalpecksniff
Posted: Thursday, June 28, 2012 6:57:22 AM
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Chesterton does not say that a man has no understanding of his nature and reactions when a boy… he says he cannot quite understand.

That must be true, since as an adult we can never really know ourselves and we struggle with that.

Even so, we do have a good measure of understanding of our childhood ways and formation.
percivalpecksniff
Posted: Thursday, June 28, 2012 7:04:26 AM
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Ah Pedro. I was born at an early age. By the time I was one year old I had scaled Everest. At two I had swum the Atlantic with one hand tied behind my back. By the age of three I was called to duty to lead the armed forces and by the time I was four had travelled the globe ten times.

At five went into politics and became our country's Prime Minister. At the age of six I retired to lead a life of dissolution having done my bit… so to speak.
pedro
Posted: Thursday, June 28, 2012 7:07:57 AM
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I'm trying hard to remember if I was even conscious as a lad. How the memory fades.
stefanomarcelli
Posted: Thursday, June 28, 2012 7:58:36 AM

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percivalpecksniff wrote:
At the age of six I retired to lead a life of dissolution having done my bit… so to speak.
Compliments! :-)
jcbarros
Posted: Thursday, June 28, 2012 9:47:44 AM

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And a boy can´t understand a man until he turns, in due course, into a man himself.
percivalpecksniff
Posted: Thursday, June 28, 2012 9:58:39 AM
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jcbarros, it is not talking about a boy understanding a man... it is talking about a man not understanding himself when he looks back to his boyhood. Part of that is memory loss, and part that we are complicated and do not understand ourselves fully, at any age. That is why we often value the wisdom of others when they advise us.
FounDit
Posted: Thursday, June 28, 2012 11:34:41 AM

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percivalpecksniff wrote:
...and part that we are complicated and do not understand ourselves fully, at any age.


I hope that you are incorrect in that assessment, perci. I had a moment of epiphany about 30 years ago wherein I understood myself in a way I had never grasped before. In doing so, I also came to understand my fellow humans more fully also.

Since that time, all that I have used to test that understanding has proven it to be true. I would like to think I am not alone in this, but have no evidence to substantiate it.

What I have discovered relative to this, however, is that most people do not sincerely want to know themselves at all.

So for that reason, both men and women do not understand youth. One must understand what it is to be human first.
percivalpecksniff
Posted: Thursday, June 28, 2012 12:18:01 PM
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I have no issue with what you say Foundit. There must be levels of insightfulness, that is true. My only point, and Chesterton's, is that we do not fully get to grips with our inner self.
MTC
Posted: Thursday, June 28, 2012 8:30:58 PM
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Chesterton might also have said that a woman can never completely understand the girl she once was. None of us, men or women, can return to our personal past and recreate ("step into the shoes of") the persons we once were at any stage in our development. Proust made a mighty effort to recreate the personal past in "In Search of Lost Time," probably coming as close to success in words as anyone could. Still, the quest remains quixotic in my view.

And just as individuals cannot fully recreate or appreciate themselves as boys or girls, so too modern man cannot recreate or fully appreciate ancient man. We will never know what is was like to see the world through ancient eyes. We must always look at the Past through the lens of the Present. What was it like to look up at the stars and see them fresh, without thinking about them as massive balls of gas, nuclear furnaces fusing hydrogen into helium, inconceivably distant? All that understanding would have to be erased. The same lesson applies to recreating our personal past. What was it like to see life through the eyes of a boy or girl before we put on the colored glasses of our Education? Before the school of Experience taught its lessons?

The bird of our youth must be forever outside our grasp.
excaelis
Posted: Thursday, June 28, 2012 9:26:37 PM

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I have a ten year-old who reminds me occasionally how time works when you're a little boy. And every now and then I think I can remember, in glimpses, how it felt. But then it goes away and I realise how little time we have to say and do everything we should. I wish I could turn this telescope round.
percivalpecksniff
Posted: Friday, June 29, 2012 5:45:23 AM
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I love this quotation.

“I remember my youth and the feeling that will never come back any more /the feeling that I could last forever, outlast the sea, the earth, and all men; the deceitful feeling that lures us on to joys, to perils, to love, to vain effort /to death; the triumphant conviction of strength, the heat of life in the handful of dust, the glow in the heart that with every year grows dim, grows cold, grows small, and expires /and expires, too soon, too soon /before life itself.

Joseph Conrad English novelist, 1857-1924
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