Monday, November 9, 2009

Angus Young

I hate agism. My birthday is coming up and it has me thinking now and then about my age. And the more that I think about my age, the more I realize how relative a concept age is. Agism feels like a cop out, whether we are young judging those older, or old judging the young.

I remember my first birthdays as a kid. I looked forward to stacks of presents and the adoration of my family. Today, as an adult, I think I'd still like to get my hands on some presents...but I might just have a drink and look for a girl with a bow wrapped around her.

When we are young we think everyone is old and when we are old we realize how young we were when we all thought that ourselves. Like most people I think about what I could have accomplished as a younger man if I knew then what I know now. I wonder how much I'll be thinking that when I'm much older than I am.

We account for birthdays each year as though we are counting down the New Years Ball. We have terrible names for getting older such as 'Middle Age,' 'Old Age', and 'Keith Richards' old.

There is an hourglass running in the background it seems. And every year we open the wrapping and let the sand out. Birthdays are an annual right of passage. After ten years or so we amp it up each time by crossing over into another decade of age. It can all be very depressing if we look at it that way.

Yet, if I have learned anything in this world, I have learned that nothing is particularly linear. The world isnt made up of straight lines. It's curvy. It's warped. So too is the path and destiny of each man or woman.

The founder of JC Penny didnt found Penney's until his 70s. Mozart composed his first piece of music at the age of 4. Alexander conquered the known world by 25. That was the same age that the Red Baron died...a young man. Casanova didnt write his memoirs until his 70s. Neil Armstrong walked on the moon at the age of 39. Brett Favre is still an NFL quarterback at age 40 playing alongside men half his age...and beating them.

Then there is 54 year old Angus Young, the legendary lead guitarist of ACDC. Just a couple of weeks ago in Dallas, I watched in awe as Angus duck walked and rocked his way up and down the catwalk for over two grueling hours. He played his heart out on that stage and ended the show with a twenty minute solo performance that set fire to his guitar strings. And he started it all dressed, as he always does, in his famous schoolboy uniform.

Make no mistake. Angus is not a young man. In many respects he looks fairly ridiculous in that schoolboy uniform. But Angus is not an old man either. He is embracing his destiny through his art. That ageless spirit of his dons that uniform and plays that guitar and whether you open your eyes or close them...damnit that is Angus Young on stage!

People today are living much longer than they once did. Not so long ago, the average lifespan was around 30 years. Disease was the real killer then...as it is now. Old age is just another kind of disease. Some people have it worse than others, but it really isnt reflected accurately in the years. It's relative.

It's a strange time to live. Advancements are made so fast in medicine and technology that I have no idea how long I might actually live. A real question for me is how long would I want to? I think we have to keep life fresh and stay active to stay alive longer...or even to have that desire.

I believe that there is something worse than aging...worse than the years that pass while we travel our road. That thing is immobility.

Movement is life. Change is life. Experience is life. Whenever we weigh ourselves down in some rut; whenever we concentrate on what is behind; whenever we insist on keeping things as they are...we are already dying. We are killing ourselves through our immobility.

Whenever I speak with someone younger than myself I get a kick out of how they assume I wont understand them. I think that is because the media makes so much out of parenting issues often giving the parents the easy out afforded by their difference in age with their children. How could parents understand their kids or what they are going through? Right?

Sure enough, kids look at me like I wont understand them. And yet I think that the only excuse I would have for that is if I am getting lazy. After all, I have lived through every year that someone younger than myself has...experiencing the same music, trends, fads, movies and the like. I know exactly who the Jonas Brothers are. I just know who the Bee Gees are as well.

I wonder if I met Beethoven if it would matter if he was 22 when I met him. Would I dismiss him as some startup punk playing loud music on his harpsichord? Do you think that Michael Jackson was old when he died at 50? Compare that to Beethoven who died...at 56.

The point is we are all unique. Some of us will live naturally longer lives than others. And some of us will do more with less and less with more. To deny that uniqueness is the simplest kind of prejudice. But it is not just others who do this. We too often do this to ourselves when we lower our personal expectations or when we conform to the 'norm' or status quo.

What we really should be doing birthday to birthday is embracing a new aspect of who we are...as we learn every year more and more about ourselves. It can take a while to make a pearl out of sand or a diamond out of carbon. But sometimes, those years of experience make things better than what came before...not less...not worse. Such quality is refinement...and that requires time.

Another birthday is coming. I guess I'll count my blessings that I'm still moving and shaking. Who knows what the future holds as long as I dont allow those birthdays to fence me in...or those years to weigh me down in some way. Keep moving! Angus runs up and down that stage in front of thousands of cheering fans, wearing most of us out as we watch him do it.

The next time I get schooled by some high school kid I'll remember how naive I was at that age about life. And how that real youth is the fearlessness in a heart of any age. Dont ever tell me to 'act my age' because I am acting my age. We just age differently.

Go ahead and limit your lives if you want to. Use that numeralogical mojo we call aging. I'm just gonna be me and live my life...Angus Young.

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