17 June 2018

On Not Acting My Age (Because I Don't Know It)

I don’t get it, this getting older thing. Chronologically, yes. But state of mind? Personal aesthetics? Outside interests? No. Rather, I’m not sure. I don’t know how I am supposed to act, or exactly what it is I supposedly like now that I have survived five decades on Earth. My head and heart are caught in a tug of war between the dorky punk I used to be and the curmudgeon into which I am morphing. The tension is real and bizarre.

Routines are much more part of life these days. It is an afternoon habit of mine to have a tea or coffee break at this coffee shop near my office. I do not recall how it started, but almost every day I am there, hopefully perched in a window seat. People watching, daydreaming, writing such follies as this. Near to this shop is the campus of a liberal arts college. As such, the place has its share of students as customers and quite likely as baristas. This shop does not have Muzak or programmed piped music. Proof that there is mercy in the universe, sometimes. But what happens is that the employees typically hook up their smartphones or MP3 players to the shop speakers. Consequently I get to hear a broad spectrum of music, much of which I either know little of or have never heard.

The other day in the shop I was sipping tea and listening to the music. It was otherwise quiet so I was getting a good earful. Deciding I liked what I was hearing I opened the music identification app on my phone and let it cogitate. The result came back for a band of which I had heard the name but not the tune. Cool, I’m thinking I might have to get it. I research it only to find out that the song is an album that was released in 1992.

1992. Twenty-six frickin’ years ago. Blood rushed to my head, then swiftly drained out. Twenty six years is half my life ago.

See, herein lies the problem. I love music from the standpoint of an enthusiastic listener. I used to have a strong sense of time and place when I listened to it. I could orient myself quite well. But these days music is not so much bound by context and location. Also, between having listened to music for decades, the ubiquity of listening devices, and the widespread distribution of music wherever I go, I am simultaneously bored and fascinated by it all.

A consequence of that is I hear old stuff that sounds new and new stuff that sounds old, to my ears. I honestly don’t know what I am hearing sometimes. I just know I like it. Mostly. Recent adventures in music have taken me into rap, hip-hop, a little dub, neo-psychedelic rock, and even electronic dance music. There is much undiscovered country in music, for me, most of which is far away from my formative years in becoming a music lover.

On any given day the music I hear makes me feel old, young, and ageless. That can be a good thing. It can be dizzy-making, too. It feels odd to me to realize I am fan-boying over music that people much younger than me are considering to be the shit. Music is music, right, and age don’t matter to the ear of the open-minded listener, right? So why this mixing up with the issue of my years on earth?

This is a problem in that the onset of summer already has me disoriented and detached from life. My dizziness is only increasing from the influence of this musical curiosity of mine. Music has been by turns exhilarating and exhausting, uplifting and depressing. My head is unable to give direction and my heart is feeling oh so lost. Consequently I am at a loss as to how to behave in my life. “Act your age” is a shopworn bromide I have heard before. But what do you do when you cannot pin that down? The music is helping me to feel something, at least, even if it isn’t helping me think. That might be a good thing.

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"Let your laws come undone
Don't suffer your crimes
Let the love in your heart take control..."

-'The Hair Song', by Black Mountain

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