Few films for me capture the spirit of the Pax Americana better than Bruce Brown’s “The Endless Summer.” The documentary is probably far better remembered for its wonderful technicolor poster that has adorned many dorm rooms and TGI Friday’s since its release in 1965, yet the film captures a small piece of a lost world where the sun seemingly never sets. Romanticized notions aside, the film captures youth in its essence, the idea of chasing the sun, and making your own endless summer. But the realization that eventually you get too old to chase the sun has been on my mind lately, for I find myself at that place that all men do, where youth ceases to be an existence and rather a distant friend.
Adulthood is something the young man strives for, constantly scraping up the mountain believing he is on his way to conquer the world, yet the further he climbs he realizes how many things are falling away from him as his ascent takes shape. For me, this is the end of college. Of course, by all metrics I have everything in front of me, but this is the point when it is proven true that you can never really go home again.
My final year begins in the spring, and I am pondering questions about where I shall go and what I shall do. It is an odd and sometimes unnerving thing to be young and aware of time’s flow. I think of evenings filled with cigar smoke on the main lawn, football games, and most importantly, the impromptu excursions that truly make the experience. It could be said that the most important rite of passage in reaching adulthood is letting go, whether that be of your youth, of your idealized notions, or of the titans whom have taught you. Just as you begin your journey, those whom you idolize are concluding theirs.
A young man is cast into the world like a fly on the end of line, dancing back and forth tethered by the training of his fathers and the traditions he was imbued with. Only time will tell the quality of the line that he is tied to. I find clothes to be a tangible way to anchor myself in tradition against the tumultuous nature of life. Marcus Aurelius says that change is the only constant of life and that bearing it with equanimity is the sign of a man rooted in the good. While my clothes reflect modern innovations and personal expressions, nevertheless they place me in a line of natural succession that allows for a sense of communion with those who have left me or are in the process of doing so. Those garments handed down to you by your forerunners, whether they be blazers, overcoats, or in my humorous case, a smoking jacket, take you back to the times when life was brimming with potential and the horizon seemed it would stretch forever.
As I prepare for my journey, I think of my father’s instruction in the spirit of Paul to run the race well. To be a man is to learn to run the race on your own as you watch others finish theirs. Bruce Brown’s film follows men who seek to hold onto youth by searching for the perfect wave, yet their quest shows that in the end we are all trying to find the endless summers we left behind. — CANON HILL
Young Mr. Hill reminds me of me at that age, complete with smoking jacket BEFORE graduation. His is an “old soul.”
This essay reminds of the line from “These Are Our Failures”:
“Gone was the pageantry of impetuous youth; now there was only the dragging anchor of middle age, the dark underside of bachelorhood, the ignominy of groveling for contract work.”
Bravo, Mr. Hill! Thank you for a well written and thoughtful piece. I wish you all manner of good luck and blessing as you start out on the next chapter of your life. You seem to be quite well prepared, and I am happy that you noted both your father and St. Paul as a source of excellent advice.
Wow, Mitchell, it’s like that scene in “When Harry Met Sally”:
“I’ve never had anyone quote me to me before!”
Don’t overthink things – enjoy the ride!
Nice little article.
And now, just to introduce the customary plaintive note about vanished standards, etc., etc.:
look at what three SURFERS are wearing to travel by air…
I’ll leave it at that. 🙂
This reads as a sort of WASP homoeroticism.