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Live fast, die young (or not)
(No. 51) The semiotics (simplified) of "Forever Young," by Stephen P. Williams
Last week a reader of this newsletter sent me an interesting note:
I was moved by your article. I am 77 and have many friends who participate exactly in self-inflicted ageism which is very depressing. I always said that they are "giving up" or "giving in" but never had words to otherwise describe it until I read your remarks. After retirement at 72, I signed up to volunteer at a large VA Hospital 2 days a week. Soon after I began, I found that they also had a photography group in which I became involved. My time is now filled with new activities, new people and the photography which I adore. When I have conversations with older veterans, I find that many suffer from depression, telling me what they were able to do in the past but are no longer for various reasons. My remark to them is that we need to re-invent ourselves and pursue what we are able to do now. Most of all, to be involved with people.
I don’t know the name of this person, or anything about them. Reading their note, I’d say that this person is quite different from many others who are getting older. Whereas many people live like they’re numbers on an actuarial table, not pursuing new interests because probability tells them they only have a certain number of years left, and what is the point, this person approaches time as an opportunity.
This letter makes me think that it’s realistic to admit that if you plant a tree at age 85, you probably won’t see it when it is a towering 40 year old. Yet perhaps instead of imagining what you won’t achieve in this world before you die, you could imagine what you will achieve. With that tree, you will have created an impression for other people that will outlive you. A legacy.
In many artistic disciplines, youth carries the day. Jean-Michel Basquiat, an enduring American artist, was only 27 when he died. Jimi Hendrix, a brilliant guitarist, was only 28. The actor James Dean said, “Dream as if you'll live forever. Live as if you'll die today.” What does that mean? The words are open to interpretation. Here’s mine: Keep living, keep experimenting, keep taking risks to find fulfillment. James Dean died at age 24.
Was it youth that made them so talented? Or was it freshness? And if it was freshness, than why couldn’t that apply to a 75 year who suddenly finds the means by which to blossom creatively? There’s no reason a person can’t be a freshman in a discipline at any age.
I’m doing that right now with videos. I’d never taken them seriously before last year, and now I can imagine making videos until the day I die. Maybe even after, if current holographic trends bear out.
A young mother talks about getting older.
Vanessa Parsons, Shelter Island, New York April 3, 2021
Endlessly Forever Young
The song “Forever Young,” by Alphaville comes on and I immediately start singing my own nonsensical lyrics to the tune. It’s an ear worm of major proportions. I have no idea who Alphaville are or where they are from, and I don’t care to know. It’s actually a terrible song, though I love it. Here is my review of some of the dozens of cover versions of this infectious song with it’s age-phobic lyrics.
This is the genesis ear worm, a global synthpop hit by a German band in 1984. The outfits remind me of just how old I really am. Dreadful and delightful.
An artful exploitation of an emotional Brazilian audience, everyone already young and wanting to stay that way. Thin yet ponderous, meaningful and vacuous, this version makes me happy to be old.
It’s Killing Me
Black leather jackets, James Dean hair, the caught-in-the headlights look of these pretend rockers as they sing a quiet “Forever Young” is spellbinding in the way of a YouTube makeup haul video. You can’t stop watching, even though you want to. That’s my poetry for this version of the song that makes me wonder if these guys really mean it -- I get the impression they can’t wait to retire and kick back in nubby green recliners.
Jay Z sings his own version here, with the original chorus sung by someone named Mr. Hudson. This is by far the best version, and the best video of all.
Good to know
Lengthen and Elongate
I’m not sure why it often feels difficult to make myself stretch in the morning or before a workout. But clearly, if I have to “make” myself do something, I don’t enjoy it. Still, stretching is great for mobility and for preventing injuries, according to Mayo Clinic. Here are the different “schools” of stretching, and how they might benefit you.
“It’s really nice to be touched. It is,” said Laura Collins, 39, who visits a StretchLab near her home in White Plains, New York, twice a week. “We’re being deprived of social interaction, we’re being deprived of hugs and people who are familiar, and ... it’s just so comfortable being there.” That’s from a recent AP story saying that small studios where someone will stretch your weary body for you may be the next big thing.
Avoid the argument for longevity
Going to sleep mad can make you wake up old.
See you soon. Stephen@stephenpwilliams.com