Saturday, May 14, 2011

River Deep, Mountain High: Aging and Wisdom

The other day I was walking Maggie in Cambridge and came across the most curious scene. An older gentleman--maybe about 70--was trying to parallel park his Subaru. There was a woman standing on my side of the street complaining, a woman on the other side of the street complaining, and a couple inside of a car complaining. Admittedly, the gentleman was having difficulties--no doubt exaserbated by the nearly constant complaining of the people on the street. The complainers were inconvienced. They wanted to pull their car out and had to wait.

The man finally gave up and drove away. The complaining woman on my side of the street--maybe 20 or 25 years old, said, "People who are over 50 should just have their license taken way." I flapped my mouth open and closed for a few moments while I contemplated a response. I wanted to tell them to stop their complaining. I wanted to tell them to find some compassion and patience. I wanted to tell them that 50 was far from old.

I decided it was best to keep my mouth shut (a surprise, because I usually don't). I realized that for the first time in my life I felt old. I felt the distance between me and a younger generation. They were there, and I was clearly somewhere else (on my way to being over the hill). Not a very pleasant feeling. Particularly since I'm still years away from the age when they think my license to should be revoked.

Wait a minute. How did Tina Turner get into this blog post? Since I got the Private Dancer LP for my birthday years ago I have not missed an opportunity to mention Tina Turner. That's one reason why she showed up in this post. Another reason is that  I just so happened to bet listening to River Deep Mountain High while I was walking and stumbled upon this scene. Tina was well over 50 in the above clip. While according to the people I saw on the street she should have her drivers license revoked, she clearly was still able to sing.

Of course, we can rewind and listen here to a woman much younger than 50 sing like no one else can sing. I've still not yet decided which version I like best. Do you have a preference?

I do have a point here. Before I get to it, one more digression. This one summer, when I was in summer band camp, my orchestra director Dwight Oltman threw his baton at me. "You young people have no passion. You haven't lived an have no idea was real emotions are." I was so annoyed at him. Clearly a 16 year old hormonally charged adolescent boy knew all about passion and emotion. Right?

Not really. I don't hold it against myself for thinking  knew everything when I was 16. I was supposed to feel that way. I also don't really hold it against the people on the street who had such harsh thoughts about the older driver. With their young age comes a rather narrow world view. I think it has to be this way: the younger absorbed in their own internal perspective viewing the world from their internal point of view and the older absorbed in an outward perspective viewing the world from multiple points of view.


  1. How can you make a young person realize that they have a very narrow view of the world? I may have more of a bias against teenagers because they are mostly arrogant and think they have everything figured out. That's a stereotype I tried to avoid getting slapped on me as a teen. Now about every two years I look back on myself from two years ago and say "man I was dumb back then I didn't know anything about the world!" One thing I know for sure is that this type of retrospection will continue for the rest of my life! And the sooner young people realize that the better off they'd be.

    -dave p

  2. See, I think that teenagers are supposed to be just like that--experiencing the world for the first time, from their own perspective, in their own way. And just as you experienced, as time passes you realize more and more how little you know.