Generation Why?

Welcome to Mandala‘s new feature, Generation Why? The aim of this area is to give voice to the portion of the FPMT community who regard themselves as “young.” FPMT is not short of initiatives in this area, LKPY (Loving Kindness Peaceful Youth), the Young FPMT Online Community, many initiatives of Essential Education, youth projects of individual centers, etc. And this area is not meant to compete with them. Rather, we aim to help highlight the “young” things happening around the organization and to create a space for others to post things they see going on in their own community.

“Even if your body is old, keep your mind young and full of courage.” – His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama

Hello, my name is Michael Jolliffe, assistant editor for Mandala. I was asked to write the introduction to this new area, mostly, I think, because I am twenty-six years old and the youngest staff member of Mandala. But after many philosophical discussions with Mandala‘s editor, Carina Rumrill, and some other “young” people in the FPMT International Office, I realized that the category “youth” might not be so clean clear as we originally hoped.

Although age is often used as a distinguishing characteristic, I’m not entirely convinced that choosing an arbitrary age range (for example, between 15 to 35) and calling that “the youth” makes a lot of sense. For me, the 1970s American comedy, Harold and Maude, provides a more accurate distinction between what is young and what is not. In the movie, Harold, a 19-year-old, is obsessed about his death and regularly feigns committing suicide to the chagrin of his mother. His personality is cold and lifeless. And it seems he would continue on this path until he meets Maude, a 79-year-old woman so full of wonder and amazement that she can barely sit still.

What I find so perplexing (and attractive) about the relationship between Harold and Maude is that their physical ages don’t meet my expectations about their characters. For whatever reason, I naturally think that Maude should no longer be impressed with the world, that somehow her increasing experience is a death sentence for her curiosity. And I think of Harold, who is in his “youth,” as being aberrant: what “normal” 19-year-old that wants to die before he’s even lived? (Of course, by the end of the movie, Maude’s vivaciousness rubs off on Harold in a way that is darkly humorous and deeply moving. It is worth finding a copy to watch.)

A truly youthful mind might be described as innovative, expansive and fresh. To the untrained eye, perhaps this comes across as naïve, disorganized and prone to folly. A young mind constantly questions – who, what, where, when, how – and of course, why.

So if you find yourself a person who is more interested in the whys than the becauses, this might be the spot for you. And if you know of something in your area that might be of interest to others, comment about it here.

– Michael Jolliffe