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Saturday, August 18, 2012

The Good, the Bad, and the Burning Rage

No one ever accused me of growing old old gracefully. In fact, very seldom has anyone told me I do anything with elegance. Some of us have wonderful gifts of charm and dignified restraint while I usually operate with tempestuous shock and awe. As I age, I have learned to modify my approach to roadblocks with a “kinder, gentler” attitude, yet I remain pretty much on the direct offensive.

I try to keep myself open to change because I believe a creature of habit soon wears a rut that places him at a disadvantageous position in this quickly changing world. But, I, like most other seniors, often kick and scream as I realize I must adapt to some very unwelcome changes. But, these days, I think I am getting much better at barking and not biting the oppositon.

Even though I find it essential to make modifications in my mind, I have a great affinity for old concepts that used to work with such simplicity. Anyone with considerable age will tell you about the “good old days” when things were uncomplicated and seemingly true. Yet, that longing perspective comes with passing time, and distance surely creates ambiguity and embellishment. So, do I reminisce with the purpose of reliving only the good times while preferring to repress the bad? In other words, were the “good old days” really that good?

And, if I accept that today can be the best day of my life, do I give enough effort to elevating the present? I believe the answer to that is “no, certainly not.” Too many old memories of the past hang like treasures in the gallery of my life. I can't destroy these recollections and be true to myself. Therefore, I set about making better art with my soul grounded in the past and my heart hungry for a new future. This present "me" is open to compromise as long as others accept me for the imperfect soul I am.

I don't want someone to force me into a file titled “Old and in the Way.” I want to continue learning and continue experiencing interactions that transform my character and improve my life. I want to remain an active participant in social issues, no matter my age. I am not nearly as intent on getting my way these days; I just want to be heard and be understood. I truly believe that is the respect most of my generation gave to our "old school" compadres.

Neither do I want to project a demeanor that suggests I have great wisdom. I do not. My goal is to keep an open mind that allows me to look at all viewpoints and find some common ground and common good. I often get very discouraged by folks who believe they have unparalleled experience and knowledge. They often try to tell me they understand the only acceptable path in life. Immediately, I question the intent of those who think they know the “true way” because, to me, they represent stagnation, and they usually have very little tolerance of anything that is not within the framework of their beliefs.

My beliefs, my faith, my values, my love – all of the understanding I possess constantly goes through considerable changes. Without transformation, I am a dead man walking. Granted, my age limits many of my cherished physical activities; however, my mind is not bound by time, my voice is not silenced by age, and my pen is not subject to a loss of words. I guess survival could be my first priority as age begins to gnaw at me, but I can withstand most handicaps as long as my mind serves my true being. I would rather live a shorter life well than become a longstanding silent partner to lonely existence.

I admire the graceful people who dance so beautifully through their lives. All I ask of them is that they allow the more oafish louts like me on their dance floor. Allow us to make our mistakes and occasionally fall due to our inexperience and lack of polished form. We indelicate steppers are living with the same rhythms of the more refined, but our response is not always pretty. Pick us up when we do tumble because we will do the same for you. Don't be afraid to touch us as the "ugly" others. We may even be able to comment on a tiny flaw we observe in your fine-grained steps.

I believe it takes all kinds of people to survive, and I believe we must be tolerant of so many different opinions that surface from so many varied backgrounds. We have immeasurable volumes to gain by working together and learning from one another. The quiet and the loud, the meek and the impertinent, the articulate and the misrepresented, the all-knowing and the lowly – we are all made from the same elements, yet we are all unique beings of creation.

Instead of people judging other people by general standards, we should make every effort to grasp the souls of all individuals, no matter their present nature. Can you say you haven't gone through major changes of temperament as you strive to find your own individuality? Can you say for certain you will always remain the same person you are today? Keeping an open mind is paramount to learning, and we must keep educating ourselves unless we declare ourselves worthless.

At 61, I am finally getting the opportunity to consider my past. I have found that self understanding and discovery go hand in hand. I want to look back to comprehend better the things I have done, and I want to look forward to locate some favorable, new shores. I know I am not what I was, but I hope to be something more than I am today. To do this, I have to steer my unique, aging vessel and change with the new prevailing winds. And my boat is not a nimble schooner, friends. But, I surely feel like sailing on.


Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rage at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
--Dylan Thomas
(The poem is addressed it to his octogenarian father who was growing weak and frail with old age. It has been historically stated that Thomas never showed the poem to his father. Was he writing it to face his own fears of losing a loved one or perhaps to record his personal fears of his inevitable demise?)

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