The ‘Operation Chromite’ movie retells the Battle of Incheon, as planned by General Douglas MacArthur. Although about war and the fragility of life, the film also offered significant reminders of what it really means to be young versus old. It is often said that ‘age is just a number’. To be fair, it is nevertheless statistically more probable that the bigger the number is, the closer to ‘D-Day’ one is, with D standing for Death. So perhaps, ‘age is not just a number, but also a reminder… that time is running out, by the year, month, day, hour, minute and second.’
In the movie, MacArthur mused, ‘A long time ago, I promised myself that I’ll live as though I expected to live forever. Nobody grows old by merely living a number of years. People grow old only by deserting their ideals. Years may wrinkle the skin. However, if you give up your ideals, it’ll wrinkle your soul.’ However, if we live as if we will not die, depending on our morals, some might become reckless and suffer the ill consequences, thus becoming one of those with ‘youth wasted on the young’, no matter how young or old one is. To be fair, old age has two aspects — in terms of the body and mind. May the body, however old, remain youthful in energy, while the mind, however young, be mature with realistic ideals.
It is said that MacArthur kept a framed copy of the essay ‘Youth’ by Samuel Ullman on his desk during the Pacific campaign, which is the probable source of his reflection, with some further reflections hereby inserted — ‘Youth is not a time of life; it is a state of mind; it is not a matter of rosy cheeks, red lips and supple knees; it is a matter of the will, a quality of the imagination, a vigor of the emotions; it is the freshness of the deep springs of life. [May the emotions be good and pure, with loving-kindness, compassion, rejoice and equanimity; not evil, without hatred, cruelty, jealousy and partiality.]
Youth means a temperamental predominance of courage over timidity of the appetite, for adventure over the love of ease. This often exists in a man of 60 more than a body of 20. Nobody grows old merely by a number of years. We grow old by deserting our ideals. Years may wrinkle the skin, but to give up enthusiasm wrinkles the soul. Worry, fear, self-distrust bows the heart and turns the spirit back to dust. [May appetites and ideals be more for the spiritual, and less for the worldly as time continues to run out.]
Whether 60 or 16, there is in every human being’s heart the lure of wonder, the unfailing child-like appetite of what’s next, and the joy of the game of living. [The ‘game’ of life and death is to be won by transcending both with liberation, the easiest of which is via reaching Pure Land.] In the center of your heart and my heart there is a wireless station; so long as it receives messages of beauty, hope, cheer, courage and power from men and from the Infinite, so long are you young.
[Within our being is our Buddha-nature, which is able to align to the Buddha’s blessings and virtues with mindfulness of him.] When the aerials are down, and your spirit is covered with snows of cynicism and the ice of pessimism, then you are grown old, even at 20, but as long as your aerials are up, to catch the waves of optimism, there is hope you may die young at 80.’ (MacArthur was 70 when he successfully led Operation Chromite, departing at 84 due to sickness.)