“By no means every destruction has been followed by rejuvenation, and the great destroyers of life remain an enigma to us” (Jacob Burckhardt).
EVERYWHERE AROUND US, THE FORCES OF EROSION, DILAPIDATION, AND DESTRUCTION ARE AT WORK. Some of these are forces of nature, while others are of human origin. In the physical world, nature has a marvelous ability to rejuvenate itself. After a forest fire, a forest grows back. But in human affairs, rejuvenation is not so automatic. Rejuvenation (“making young again”) requires conscious choice and hard work, and it’s sad but true: not everyone chooses to engage in that work. Some people are content just to be destroyers.
As important as the concept of rejuvenation is, however, we sometimes make too much of it, or at least we look at it in the wrong way. Great social value is placed on youth in our culture, so some people go to expensive (and ridiculous) lengths to try to rejuvenate themselves physically, as if the process of aging could be reversed. Certainly we need to make our bodies last as long as possible (so that while we live we can get as much good work done as possible), but if our efforts at rejuvenation spring from a fear of being anything other than young, then our efforts at rejuvenation will be misguided.
That said, it is also true that many of us should work harder at rejuvenation. The daily grind will grind us to dust if we don’t approach it with the proper attitude, and the destructive tendencies of modern life will crush and kill us if we don’t determine to resist them.
The highest kind of rejuvenation, of course, is the replenishment that we give to others. When the harmful forces of life have worn someone down, we never do a better thing than when we help them to be refreshed and reinvigorated. So as far as our reputations are concerned, let’s work to be known as rejuvenators rather than destroyers.
There is no good alternative to rejuvenation. If we’re not growing (and growth requires frequent refreshment), then we’re simply giving in to the forces of destruction. Rejuvenation is not something that can be done once and then forgotten. It has to be repeated as often as we find ourselves exhausted. The cup of life has to be refilled every day.
“We must always change, renew, rejuvenate ourselves; otherwise we harden” (Johann Wolfgang von Goethe).