I'm sure that all of you, at some point or another, have heard adults utter the much overused and condescending phrase, "You teenagers think you are invincible." I'm also sure that you've always rebuffed the comment, saying things like, "I know I'm not invincible!" and "I know that I will probably die one day!" (at least, I know that's what I've always replied). But I'm not sure that we teenagers entirely believe those things when we say them. Are we able to fully grasp the concept that life is, in fact, temporary? Can we face the fact that, with each passing day, we are running out of time? Do we even want to? And, perhaps most importantly, are adults, as they scoff at our supposed invincibility, able to grasp that concept either?
Last night, I attended the New York City stop of young adult novelist John Green's book tour for his recently released novel, The Fault in Our Stars. The novel is about a 16-year-old girl's battle with cancer. After briefly reading from the book, Green went on to describe The Fault in Our Stars as a "little epic," complaining that too many novels rely on grand gestures of romantic sacrifice on the part of their characters to give worth to their characters' lives. What if, he pondered, as is the case with his protagonist, one does not have enough time to even contemplate accomplishing something out-of-this-world before they die? Green argued that it is better to come to terms with the fact that we don't have all the time in the world now, as well as realize that we don't have to rock the world in order to give meaning to what little time we have here. He went on to say that this is, in fact, the only problem he has with Harry Potter; that the concept of horcruxes (pieces of a person's soul stored in random objects that will live on if that person dies) fails to take into consideration the fact that our species will not survive forever, regardless of an individual life span. "I don't find this to be a depressing idea," he laughed in response to heckling he received from the crowd for coming off as such a Debbie downer.
Maybe that's the problem with the rest of us. Maybe it's time for us to officially own up to the fact that, no, we aren't invincible, but that doesn't mean that we won't leave our own marks, however small, on the world while we can. And I suppose if we fully embrace John Green's mentality, we will be forced to acknowledge that whatever mark we are able to leave on the world won't survive forever either. I'm not sure that I find this to be a very comforting idea, but I am on my way to adopting Green's view of not finding it depressing anymore. Instead, I find it inspiring that people all over the globe as well as throughout history still put in enormous efforts to spur change, to create, and to be passionate about what they love anyway. I think this speaks to the inherent drive that humans have to not only succeed, but also to help each other. It's time for us to start considering that an entire world teeming with people like that may be better than invincibility, after all.