Nowadays we pay very little attention to the fact that throughout life a constant process of ripening goes on. Inwardly honest men, such as Goethe, feel this. Even in his latest years Goethe was still eager to learn. His inward growth continued; he felt he had not finished with the task of becoming a man. And in looking back on his youth and prime he saw in all that had come to him then a preparation for the experiences brought by old age. Nowadays people very seldom think in that way — least of all when taking account of man as a social being. Everyone, as soon as he is twenty, wants to belong to some corporate body and — in the favourite phrase — to exercise his democratic judgment! It never occurs to anyone that there are things in life worth waiting for, because increasing ripeness comes with the years. Men today have no idea of that!
That is one thing we must learn, my dear friends — that all stages of life — and not only the first two or three decades of youth — bring gifts to man.
Source: Rudolf Steiner – GA 193 – INNER ASPECT OF THE SOCIAL QUESTION: Lecture I – Zurich, 4 February 1919