10.11.17

Reelin' In The Years

We're all of us getting older.

One friend's maxim is that the aim of life is stay in touch with that inchoate fury of one's teenage self - as though that's the only really true expression of a life. While for many years I agreed with that - I'm no longer sure it is true.

Carl Jung is particularly brilliant on growing old. Read if you can "Stages of Life" from his dazzling "Modern Man in Search of a Soul". I'm going to quote some big chunks of it:
"The nearer we approach to the middle of life, and the better we have succeeded in entrenching ourselves in our personal standpoints and social positions, the more as if it appears as if we had discovered the right course and the right ideals and principles of behavior. For this reason we suppose them to be eternally valid, and make a virtue of unchangeably clinging to them." 
"But we cannot live the afternoon of life according to the programme of life's morning - for what was great in the morning will be little at the evening, and what in the morning was true will at evening have become a lie." 
"For a young person it is almost a a sin - and certainly a danger - to be too much occupied with himself; but for the ageing person it is a duty and a necessity to give serious attention to himself. After having lavished its light upon the world the sun withdraws its rays in order to illumine itself. Instead of doing likewise, many old people prefer to be hypochondriacs, niggards, doctrinaires, applauders of the past or eternal adolescents - all lamentable substitutes for the illumination of the self, but inevitable consequences of the delusion that the second half of life must be governed by the principles of the first." 
"For the most part our old people try to compete with the young. In the United States it is almost an ideal for the father to be the brother of his sons, and for the mother if possible to be the younger sister of her daughter."
The truth of this is driven home to me by articles like this one about the growth of Halloween on the festival calendar. Aimed at millennials refusing to abandon their childhood it's still an accusation which could be levelled broadly at the infantillisation of society.

As a pop music fan, an eternal adolescent, I'd have to conclude that these derogatory conclusions apply to me more than most. There is definitely something vampiric about clinging to pop music late into one's life. For many of us pop music was a "window in the sky", a way out of the impossible social and emotional situations we found ourselves incarnated within. But maybe, to paraphrase Jung, there comes a time when that ceases to be a viable approach to life.

What feels like an unusual thing is happening in our household. I've never pushed music on my children - but my eldest daughter, now 16, has found her own way into it. We have conversations about music. She gives me tips too. She's listening to The Clash a lot at the moment. The other day I wandered into her room and she had CAN on the stereo. She has a record player and I've been wondering recently if she'd like some of my old records? The dynamic is such that I feel a little like stepping back from music; as though it is a territory that someone else is moving into.

Another friend told me his tastes in music had changed as he had grown older. He mentioned appreciating things like Van De Graf Generator along the lines of a more mature enjoyment of bitter foods. And although I still regularly return to the same things I was listening to as a teenager, and by and large find their potency undiminished, I too have detected shifts in my inclinations.

Case in point being Steely Dan. OK, I've had Steely Dan records for years... I bought "Katy Lied" at the Woolworths in Windsor aged 16. But damn - there's something about the slick, jazzy polish of "Peg" (for instance) that really hits the spot in a way it can't have ever done before. I'm falling too for Donald Fagen's "The Nightfly" (must be some kind of shibboleth). As a band they were never the same as their innocent and foolish contemporaries in rock. They parlay cynicism, cool and weariness into something you can only truly appreciate as an older soul (plenty of young people with old souls it turns out). A little like Randy Newman in that respect, but less comic. And slick to boot.