FADING (to Grey)
On the subject of old age I can be no authority – being only 30 years old – I have yet to experience those phases of consciousness I have watched assume themselves in the countenance of others in my life. Mysterious these phases – some which I have already passed through as I have grown and passed through various rites of passage – others of which I am only just beginning to feel the emergence of.
But this MS is not about the ones I have passed through – but about my feelings and apprehensions of old age.
Young – the World and all its possibilities are open to me. Virile, mobile and strong I can do almost anything I set my mind to including defend myself and exude that Satanic aggression that bears others out of my way or warns that I’m ready to do Anything to survive an encounter. Life clings to me.
Neatly seated in the Contemporary of my age I am comfortably placed in the go-between of many mediums and the reflection of the values they contain – and the control they exert when used as badges of identity.
I have a good knowledge of many older but still popular metal bands whilst keeping a (ever more cynical) eye on the new stuff coming up through the ranks… My tastes range from Indie to Metal to Rock, Rap, Pop and Techno and no matter which crowd I find myself in – I can keep a conversation that compares the music of my past, Pink Floyd, Chili Peppers, Nirvana, Pearl Jam, RATM, Pantera, Led Zeppelin etc, with the music of today, afloat. I am connected even in some small way to the myriad of names, their associated reputations, famous works and specific languages of my time. But I frown if you mention Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley or Charles Miller.
I am aware of several world wars by name and documentary only – the mammoth feat of landing on the moon is currently a passé topic – the pyramids still stand – and the Middle East is at war. Intense changes in technology and the marketing ethos and reach of capitalism have transformed the world via laissez faire (free trade) and plunged it into a drastic global economic crisis. The topic of the Environment and ’Global Warming’ is beginning to dominate the discussions of politicians and religions as uncertain climate changes loom and are becoming a major concern for all who speak and plan for the future.
Moreover – the remarkable invention of the Playstation – which invention is also now passé in conversation unless suffixed by a 3 or even 4 – and which invention revolutionized the recreational habits of billions, and even changed the format of the unconscious to deliver dreams as though one were playing a game – even this marvel that replaced the 1980’s C64 and Atari with a quantum leap is already giving way to the technology of unbelievably powerful phones and technologies whose acronyms and applications baffle even me at 30 yet which will no doubt be relics by the time I am 35.
How much stranger are these things to someone older than me?
Even at 30 and I find myself tut-tutting and spitting distasteful remarks about ‘music these days’. And I am consciously realizing and beginning to wonder on that connection between myself and my present state of age – and the elderly citizens of the world – who – also felt the same balance between the past and the present when they were 30 as it crept on toward the future – that I currently do.
I feel that connection which the people I view as elderly now – back then – had then. Whom had exactly the same categorical knowledge of the music of their day, and could rattle off a similar and vast list of names of popular or contemporary artists – and who at my age also had an integrated empathy with their modern scene – were up with the Times – the Ethos of their Present Era.
Why are we the young and the aged – so different? Why does age demarcate us and our place in the world so steeply, so sharply, so unforgivably?
The innate rootedness I feel to the world comes from my familiarity with it. With the names of familiar streets, people, issues, celebrities, practices, customs, traditions, and social mores.
But as time passes – this rootedness fades. As it faded for them – the now elderly – the icons, the symbols, the people, the songs and sounds and places that took place and lived out their temporary causal (and then contemporary) existences in full during their youth – will fade for me too.
The sense of being In Time, at one with Time and ones place in it – irrevocably slips away as ones roots are eroded/replaced/defaced.
As time passes – my family members will pass on – one by one – severing my primary links to familiarity and thus the pinions that anchor me and my origin to the earth will be no more. My mother – the bearer of me may die – and thus will I lose that link, that love that brought me forth. My father may die – and thus the two creators of me will be forever extinguished.
The friends I have will probably always change – but eventually they will pass on and I will, if I can, be required to make new ones. But with every passing moment the stock from which I choose them – who share the Time I live in – who will remember the Time I lived in – gets smaller.
The locations in which I have roots to my present – the shops I visit, the places I meet people, the vehicles I use, the clothes I wear, the ambitions I have, perhaps even the name of my country – will become the past; eroded by time and progress.
The houses in which I lived will come to be possessed by new owners, new fashions, new energies – new lives. The foods I like, the brands I become accustomed to, the pastimes I enjoy will slowly change – making way for new and avante garde pleasures, leisures and treasures.
The television shows, the icons, the celebrities, faces of friends and family that made up so many of my casual discussions will slowly slip away as they are replaced by new and unfamiliar ones – and the time from which I drew so much of my character, my culture, my personal conduct with its associated values and ethos will come to be no more.
As I get older the bands I enjoy, the bands that influenced me and brought me together with others who shared similar tastes will break up and/or be replaced with a new sound to which my generation cannot relate nor enjoy. The songs and the energies that marked special memories in my life will become ghosts of the machine.
And as I get older and connections to a familiar world are uprooted one by one – it will become harder and harder for me to find someone who remembers those days – to share my memories and who can remind me of my youth.
The liberty to have conversations with my loved ones about their past, my past and our past – and the ability to reminisce with those connections about family or friendly joys, times of laughter and sadness – will fade and those conversations that remind me of me, of my place in the world – of what I did and what I have done, and who I was and who I was connected to will be closed off forever.
The familiarity I enjoyed with my body and my mind too – will begin to ebb away as the flesh breaks down, as the sinews and muscles get leaner and more fragile, as the passion and drive begins to dwindle for one-sided ambition and begins to realize the inevitability of getting older.
What I knew as the world – which was once and for a long time only myself – will become complicated as my independence gradually leaves me and I will be forced to acknowledge the necessity of co-dependence, charity, humility, dignity – be required to depend on others for my survival.
Even the basic fundamental senses, Sound, Sight, Smell, Touch will all undergo rapid changes, leaving what I knew, in the shadows, only to be replaced with alien and unwieldy technologies, fashions, and icons that reflect the needs, wants and times of the younger generation. A generation I must endure the foibles and f***-ups of – watch make mistakes they could avoid if only a little wisdom were sent their way – and hope that the unruly violence, harshness and dis-connectedness they show with My generation gives way through experience and empathy to an understanding that sadly – tragically – I know – can only, if ever it does, come with the passing of time and the passage of age.
If it does not – then one of life’s sharpest and most unforgiving insights is achieved.
At some point my ability to walk freely of my own accord, hurry through crowds to get to where I’m going, breathe deeply without coughing, climb rockfaces without so much as a thought as to injury due to fragile bones or other ailments, swim bays or dive underwater, and generally exert my body in any given way I desire – without so much as a second thought as to the possibility of being unable to do what I want it to – will decrease.
My ability to instill respect and fear from groups of men as I walk past alone now in my youth, ready to fight (but preferring to ignore), will diminish. As my flesh weakens and decent values succumb to the strength and world-view of the young – filled with the emptiness that has been the fallout of the spiritual and soulful crises and laments of the last hundred years – which crises have gone unavenged, unappeased, unredeemed – I will be ever less able to protect myself from the indignity of those who my generation would view cowards and bullies, f***wits and scum – and those of their generation might view as heroes, icons and the norm.
If Alzheimers or Osteoporosis, Cancer or Asthma settle into me – my memory, my lungs, my eyesight, my basic motor functions will gradually fall into impair. My experiences of the World shall be limited even further.
In all probability – I shall be like so many of those whom I talked to in the Nursing Home in which I worked for six months. Lonely, isolated, faced with a strange landscape that bears no resemblance to anything I grew up with or know and be dolefully aware of the loss of my roots to the world in which I aged. Estranged from the Present and cast off from society not just physically but spiritually.
Although the humour of sharp-witted old ladies sparkles with life in such places – the cheeky mischievious glint in the eyes of old men who remember wistfully their misspent youths; a great sadness, longing and mournful yearn pervades such homes – the whisper of doubt, of regret, of confusion as to the meaning of life and whether they suffused theirs with enough.
And as I watch the elderly pass me in the street – I sense a deep and mournful sadness – a regret for the passing of life and the encroaching time to make peace with this cryptic struggle we all endure without ever knowing why. A sadness even in their laughter is tempered with an often indomitable tenacity, the toughness that comes with so much experience and a long endured connection to the vagaries and passage of change.
I can feel their longing, their loneliness – and the terrifying fullness and awareness of the thread of continuity of their lives and its profound connectivity to Me.
And – when I hear in the news of them being picked on, targeted, abused, raped, killed – and I do hear of it – hear always of the defenseless and harmless being tragically chosen for the learning curve of this connection; I wonder at the tragic nature of age and why it is set out that the young cannot have empathy with the old until the young are old and the old are gone.
Why can they not see and recognize the connection I see.
But perhaps that’s just it, perhaps they do recognize the connection. Perhaps they unconsciously sense and fear that connection – attack that connection – because they don’t want to be connected.
But they are, and always will be, and only when they get older – will they really understand what it is to be old – just as I hope to understand what it is to be young.