“The young do not know enough to be prudent, and therefore they attempt the impossible, and achieve it, generation after generation.” Pearl S. Buck.
Buck’s poignant words direct us to a critical issue on stunted adult growth: when does prudence usurp audacity?
In my youth, my audacity laced with hubris: I believed that my harsh circumstances made me better capable and more determined than those
more contentedly-wired. Therefore, I attempted unreasonable goals, and achieved enough of them to realize that my audacity, not my arrogance, had enabled my continuing growth.
As an adult, I can now see the wide-ranging, long-term impact of my actions upon others. And that awareness fostered compassion. So, as an adult, I now take care in my outrageous pursuits to consider the potential adverse impact of my actions upon others.
Risk / Benefit. This is the ratio of prudence. Experience compels us to take less total risk for more guaranteed benefit. But only our own arrogance causes us to adopt this dwindling conservative approach. When only our benefit matters, then loss becomes the negative, and failure becomes the problem.
However, when benefiting others becomes the goal, loss and failure remain part of the positive process. When we shift our focus to considering the potential benefits for others, to creating and growing a sense of community in our goals, the risks appear insignificant, because the benefits gained are inherent in the intention to serve others. We then look at our collective problems, and feel, “Who else, if not me, will do something about this? If I can see this, then I must be specially equipped to address it.” Therein lies the immortality of our audacity.
My goals remain as audacious as in my youth. And my detractors indict me as arrogant for believing I am capable of making any change to the status quo (though they silently wish for my success.) But now that unreasonable outrageousness points outward, because I know we are capable of so, so much more than we individually believe.
And we will win, with each of our community risking that prudence for the audaciousness of something bigger than the sum of our individual possibilities. Generation after generation, we will succeed, by shifting our focus to the audacity of serving each other, rather than only ourselves. In this, it is impossible to fail. There can never be loss. And no risk is too big.