Some people turn sad awfully young. No special reason, it seems, but they seem almost to be born that way. They bruise easier, tire faster, cry quicker, remember longer and, as I say, get sadder younger than anyone else in the world. I know, for I'm one of them.
Even very recently, the elders could say [to the youths]: "You know, I have been young and you never have been old." But today's young people can reply: "You never have been young in the world I am young in, and you never can be." . . . This break between generations is wholly new: it is planetary and universal.
How can one accept — let alone enjoy — aging in a culture where God is twenty-five; where advertisements are filled with twenty-somethings in halter tops and tight t-shirts, unless the ad is for a drug to treat incontinence, high blood pressure, or elevated cholesterol? What about the wisdom of age? What about endurance? What about the beauty of a face etched by years that were not always easy?
There are two barriers that often prevent communication between the young and their elders. The first is middle-aged forgetfulness of the fact that they themselves are no longer young. The second is youthful ignorance of the fact that the middle aged are still alive.
Frederick William was deeply disappointed by his son, the future Frederick the Great, who in his youth seemed more interested in French culture, music, and literature than in the military virtues. The father's disaffection turned to actual hatred, and his treatment became so harsh that the young prince decided to run away, with the aid of two accomplices, Lieutenants Katte and Keith. The plan was discovered; Keith escaped, but the prince and Katte were captured and court-martialed. Katte was sentenced to life imprisonment, Frederick to solitary confinement. Frederick William, deciding that Katte's sentence was too lenient, had him beheaded in the presence of Prince Frederick. This drastic measure had the desired effect; Frederick asked the king's pardon and began to apply himself to acquiring the Prussian military philosophy.