.....Master and Commander, I came across this arresting paragraph. Stephen Maturin, the ship's surgeon is writing in his diary about a man (James Dillon) whom he knew in prior years and who is now part of the crew of the ship:
....this is a critical time for him, a lesser climacteric--a time that will settle him in that particular course he will never leave again, but will persevere in for the rest of his life. It has often seemed to me that towards this period...men strike out their permanent characters; or have those characters struck into them. Merriment, roaring high spirits before this: then some chance concatentaion, or some hidden predilection (or rather inherent bias) working through, and the man is in the road he cannot leave but must go on, making it deeper and deeper (a groove, or channel), until he is lost in his mere character--persona--no longer human, but an accretion of qualities belonging to their character. James Dillon was a delightful being. Now he is closing in. It is odd--will I say heart-breaking?--how cheerfulness goes: gaiety of mind, natural free-springing joy. Authority is its great enemy--the assumption of authority. I know few men over fifty that seem to me entirely human: virtually none who has long exercised authority.
I'm still thinking about this, because I think it, in the main, true. What I'd like to recapture most in my life is not the irresponsibility of youth, but a little of the "free-springing joy". I think most of us give that up too readily.