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Letter to the Young

Settled I was, in the dim of a Café in the gut of Dublin City. I was navigating myself through the torrent of Facebook status' on my phone, when I noticed an eminence of posts from young people who were leaving their Schoolhood, if not necessarily their studies, behind. Staring their exams in the face, as well as squinting beyond out into the mist of their own future's. The cautious excitement, the unclassified fear, the beginning and end of something not altogether known. And, settled, I looked out the window. I looked out the window while the words of Louis MacNeice pricked at me within. "Time was away and somewhere else", he wrote, in 'Meeting Point'. I was reminded of this poem while recently reading Clive James' 'Poetry Notebook'. Time was suspended. Then I thought of Time, as a concept. Of Jorge Luis Borges, the blind Argentinian writer who wrote in 'The Book of Sand', "Being with you and not being with you is the only way I have to measure time". In the timeless dim so thick with love lost, one could almost reach out and grab it. But I cannot, it is impossible to grab the past. That is not to say impossible to grapple with it, instead. So I thought; what would I have to say to those younger than myself? Now finding themselves in that transition I once also occupied. As a professional writer, what of worth is there for me to offer? Perhaps, at the age of 24, it might be "too soon" to write about this transition, or to impart some formidable and tensile advice. But, then, better than it being "too late", and missing the opportunity, as it were. So sitting, I collected myself, wrote a brief and expensive letter to those in the thick of youth. Life in full tide. This is the product.

Letter To The Young:

To whom it may concern,

I write you here, all you young people. I suppose, in some way, I am writing myself. Or, writing to whom I once was. This is a letter directly addressing you and your life. Your future. Your problems. Your fears. Your excitement. Your world. Some of you still reside in school and some of you do not. Some are diving straight into the workforce that is the lifeblood of our economy. Some will continue their sojourn within educational institutions. Some are undetermined, perplexed, and unsure. Some will travel to see the vastness and diversity of things and hope it helps them locate their own identity. For those leaving school, preparing for exams, be mindful that your education is based on the efforts of many generations before you. Many conversations, many problems, many sacrifices. By people who probably once sat in a classroom, who drank and were merry celebrating life on the weekends, who sat looking out the window on a rainy day feeling lonely and uncertain, people who loved and people who suffered, people who won, and people that lost. What we have now has been produced by the enthusiastic efforts of many people in all different aspects of work, with totally individual personalities and from many countries. Fear not foreign cultures, we can learn from each other, diversity is very welcome. Do not worry if you do not see where you fit in with this extravaganza, some people invented their own subjects, discovered facts before unknown. If you want to change the world, remember that you cannot do everything, but you can do something rather than nothing. If you are lucky, enough people will tell you are wrong and it will inspire you to prove them wrong, and in turn change the world. All this has been laid out before you for your inheritance so that you can use it to help mankind, to do it justice, to make your own contribution, and then hand it over to, if not your own children, those of your friends. The school has always been people's most effective management system for transferring culture from one generation to the next. However, we have now developed a system of education as sport, where memory-retention examinations and one's performance in them, are rewarded with points, or a score. We put people into classes that do not reflect their intelligence or capacity for learning, but only their scores, their points, which are never an accurate reflection of what they can actually do. Therefore, these classes based on ranking are dangerous and should not be taken seriously by any thinking person. The aim of education is not point scoring. It is the development of independently acting and thinking individuals who determine their own intellectual and emotional progress. Education is using information to find patterns, learn lessons, make mistakes, draw inferences, learn through suffering, falling in love, and having a vision of the world. We live in an economically unequal society that incentivises jobs as the most important asset. It is not jobs. It is the role one chooses to play in any given society and one's own individual development. The most important motive for work in school, college, indeed life, is the pleasure in ones own self-determined work, pleasure in its result, and the knowledge of the values it's outcome will prove for the community. Money is not the greatest source of power. Education is. Wealthy people often forget this because they take money for granted. The health of society depends quite as much on the independence of self-determined workers and respect for our own recognized identities that compose it, as much as with that of the society's social cohesion. If you let a person in a teaching position determine your own journey you lose out in discovering who you really are, what you really need to do, and what you can become. One's own self-evaluation is more important than that of any other, as the inadequate evaluation's of others must be secondary to our own, as they do not know us as well as we know ourselves. The most difficult thing for many young people is determining what you want your life to be. The most rewarding lives are those spent in something that is not boring, but challenging, diverse, and intriguing. You don't have to sit in an office making a killing for shareholders while you justify your own lifestyle based on something as pedestrian as a comfortable wage. You will become unhappy, especially while you watch your contemporaries do more interesting things, and become more interesting people. The three greatest categories of human achievement are Science and the world of human nature, History and the record of nature and humanity, and the Arts, which teach us how to live and give meaning to things. Life, unlike secondary school tests, is not a competitive examination. At worst, you have to endure tragedy or be misunderstood, do not be afraid, this is a source of power. At best, it is how you conduct yourself. You are your own highest standards. One should also respect the human right of others if civilization is to be achieved, which has yet to be realized. This means that we all each of us together must protect the individual against arbitrary infringement by other individuals or by a government; the right to do ones work and receive financial support to live properly; freedom of speech and education; freedom to love whoever one wants and to have your identity protected; and adequate participation of the citizen in the formation of their government. Have respect if not for every person's beliefs, for their right to live, and live a decent life. Finally, as Socrates said, "the best life is the life informed and considered." Now, go forth and do likewise, for your whole life is ahead of you.

Yours with encouragement,

Aaron Vallely.

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