Thursday, October 20, 2011

Aging and Raging

I’m still really swamped at work so I’m going to continue being relatively scarce on blogger for the next couple of weeks. Just a quick thought today on Aging and Raging. I was listening to Jimi Hendrix’s “Voodoo Child” yesterday. The opening line is: “I stand up next to a mountain. And I chop it down with the edge of my hand.”

Jimi was young when he did this song, of course, and young when he died. I remember hearing “Voodoo Child” when I was young, and feeling the power flow through me. I felt the same way, felt like I could challenge a mountain and whip it, felt like I could take the scraps of that mountain and build an island, as Jimi sang. I remember one day, at sixteen, I’m barreling down a rough back road on the dirt bike I had at the time. I’m pushing the motorcycle as hard as I can, and the speed, and my youth are making me feel invulnerable. I take both hands off the handle bars, lift them high and give the world a big “F You.”

Good thing the world didn’t toss a rut in my way at just that moment. I might have experienced road rash a long time before I actually did. Or worse. I don’t know about you, but I remember feeling invincible as a teenager. You stand up in the storm and the thunder rolls over your head and the lightning strikes the ground around you, and you feel your heart running like a wild horse, and you know nothing can bring you down.

I remember in my twenties reading Dylan Thomas’s:
“Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.”

Those words ignited in me. I had no doubt that I’d do exactly that. By then, perhaps, I could imagine being taken down by a force bigger than myself. But I still knew I’d go down fighting.

It’s a long way from twenty-five to fifty-three. One by one my sureties are fading. Most of the time, my raging seems to have changed to aging. I like to think its wisdom and, if so, it took it long enough to work through my thick skull. But like I said, the sureties are fading. I’m not so sure it’s not just fear.

Still a great song, though! Have a listen! Voodoo Child.

Still a great poem! Have a look: Dylan Thomas.


Paul Tobin said...

This is a great poem, a villanelle, though it is so perfect the form does not leap off the page at you as some, less skilled examples do. I read this poem when we buried my fathers ashes.

Charles Gramlich said...

Paul, I like Dylan Thomas tremendously. He's the main thing that got me into reading poetry, and sometimes writing it.

Tom Doolan said...

I can actually relate to this already. I've had health problems crop up that I never thought were possible. I remember when I was a teen I was skinny as a rail, and I told my mom I would never be fat. She likes to bring that up every once in a while as she points to my 220-pound girth.

I'm always reminded of Garth Brooks' song "Much too young to feel this damn old."

Prashant C. Trikannad said...

Well said, Mr. Gramlich! I often look back and wonder "Where did all those years go?" and then a voice inside me whispers, "You still have as many years ahead of you." Hopefully, I say!

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I think I feel a little more sure of myself now. Then again, I was never an angry youth.

Charles Gramlich said...

Tom, I never had a single weight issue till I was in my 40s. Then my metabolism changed and I gained weight.

Prashant, I sure hope for a lot more good years. I worry about the rate of change speeding up. I like stability. Thanks for visiting.

Alex, I kind of was an angry youth, or at least really energetic!

Merisi said...

I felt very vulnerable as a teenager, secretly plotting how to escape and live a different life from the one that was expected of me. Somehow I succeeded. Still seems like a miracle.

Charles Gramlich said...

Merisi, I know others who felt that way, more women than men. I wonder if there is a gender difference, or if it is strictly related to the experiences of childhood, which differ from one person to another

Steve Malley said...

I find it funny that the young, with decades and decades stretching before them, are always in the biggest hurry.

Meanwhile the old, who may not last til dinner, are perfectly happy doing five miles an hour, with their left turn signal on...

pattinase (abbott) said...

One of the many poems we memorized in high school. I doubt kids do that now. I can still be enraged pretty easily but I get over it more quickly than I did.

Travis Erwin said...

Great take on aging and the way we change.

sage said...

Raging to aging... I'm still raging (for a little longer, I pray) and I got you by a year! But boy have the years flown by

Deka Black said...

I can say from what i see in my surroundings. Sometimes is wisdom. And other is people giving up and being cranky and angry at people who achieve what they do nor achieved.

BernardL said...

There comes a time when you've been burning and raving at closing day for so long the dark night starts lookin' pretty good. :)

Issa's Untidy Hut said...

Nice dovetailing combo - Hendrix and Dylan Thomas.

The lines you quote in Voodoo Chile are so amazing. A kind of marriage of Muddy's old Hootchie Coochie Man, African praise songs, and some futuristic potential for rock that was never realized.

To be a rock and not to roll.

David Cranmer said...

I appreciate both the song and that marvelous, brilliant poem. And I feel 'ya, brother Charles. Good post.

eric1313 said...

And I love them both man. Jimi and Dylan were both wizards within their art.

I might be a young whipper snapper yet, but I'm feeling it too, got a lot of gray shooting through my hair. Teeth problems... grrrrrr... But i feel better today than i did a few years ago. Had a few scary problems, the kind of illnesses that really put one in crisis, looking at their own mortality for the first time.

As said, I like Dylan Thomas, but from everything I've been through I have to say that if they light were to fade tomorrow, there would be not a lot of rage. I've already raged. Time for some serenity.

But I'd still pop in some Hendrix.

Richard Prosch said...

I recall the same energy the first time I spun ELECTRIC LADYLAND and heard "Voodoo Child." I think Deka's got it right --you too when you write about the world putting a rut in your way (fortunately!). In your aged wisdom you understand that it well might have knocked you over. Much of the "raging" youth (KISS wrote "Flaming youth/will set the world on fire") is just so much inexperience. The trick is to balance objective wisdom of age with the positive energy of youth. Not always easy.

Charles Gramlich said...

Steve Malley, good point. I wonder why that is. Seems like it may be profound but I don't have the wisdom for it yet.

pattinase, yes, I’ve noticed that myself, how quickly my anger fades. Maybe a good thing.

Travis Erwin, thanks, man.

sage, I have to get up for the raging now. Once I had to calm down from it, but that has reversed.

Deka Black, Yes, there are plenty of those folks. Sad to say.

BernardL, indeed. Just for a change if for nothing else. I agree.

Don, I remember that line, to be a rock and not to roll. Was perhaps my mantra, or my theme for a long time. I’d like to think it still is at times. But not all the time anymore.

David Cranmer, Yes, that poem is really a masterpiece. Man the guy could write, just as Jimi could play.

eric1313, serenity sounds so wonderful to me right now. Peace. Peace and stillness. Ahhh!

Richard Prosch, that is true. So much of my raging youth was definitely inexperience. To have that energy, and the mindset and discipline now to direct it. Would be nice.

Cloudia said...

a wonderful post that speaks to those of us who have raged-

and now age. . .

Aloha from Waikiki;

Comfort Spiral

> < } } ( ° >


X. Dell said...

No one can accuse you of having poor taste--at least with respect to poetry and music.

I honestly can't say that I remember feeling invincible as a teenager, but I do remember thinking that older people were timid--clueless about how little risk the high-risk activities really were.

Of course, that's not my attitude today. Age strikes again.

ivan said...

Your third paragraph is hard to beat:

"Good thing the world didn’t toss a rut in my way at just that moment. I might have experienced road rash a long time before I actually did. Or worse. I don’t know about you, but I remember feeling invincible as a teenager. You stand up in the storm and the thunder rolls over your head and the lightning strikes the ground around you, and you feel your heart running like a wild horse, and you know nothing can bring you down."

I recall being something of an animist in my late twenties...Also a little scared over my poetic symbol.

"You tower over me
like music
My lofty, green-bowed tree
You whisper
you speak
in paleolithic silence
While the wretched hour of turgid noon

I guess I was already fearing thirty.

Charles Gramlich said...

Cloudia, and that seems to be a lot of our blogging buddies.

X-Dell, I don't think I felt invincible all the time as a teenager. I felt vulnerable to other people, but to fores of nature and to life in general I felt largely invincible. No storm or natural phenomenon would scare me or worry me strongly.

Ivan, glad you enjoyed that paragraph, which I definitely think was my best in that piece. I felt vulnerable to career type issues in my 30s and 40s, which is when I was trying to build one and not getting very far along.

Greg said...

I think you're right, it's definitely turning to wisdom. Not as much fun as that screw-everything-in-my-path feeling of invincibility, but definitely good to have!

Randy Johnson said...

All youth have that feeling. Comes with the territory I guess. Until one experiences life a bit...

I remember being twelve and wondering if I'd ever grow up. Once I hit eighteen, as that old saying goes, it's been downhill all the way.

Charles Gramlich said...

Greg, I guess you either live long enough to get the wisdom. don't.

Randy, I know. I remember wanting so bad to grow up. Geeze, I wish I had that youth to give a good talking to. :)

laughingwolf said...

indeed, in youth, we believe we're omnipotent

as some wag put it:
youth is wasted... on the young!

but again: ve get too schoon oldt, und too late schmart!

Charles Gramlich said...

Laughingwolf, I know, that's how it has worked for me at least. :)

Barrie said...

Interestng post. In my little house, there's the aging (myself and Mr. Summy) and then a couple of those raging teens! And then me writing the raging. And then my still sweet 11 year old. Quite the mix!

Oscar Case said...

You can't fight aging much. Exercise is the best remedy they say. It can be discouraging, too, along comes a cancer or a bad kidney or liver, and so much for that.

Travis Cody said...

I remember the winter I turned 15. Most of my buddies were a year or so older, and so they were driving well before I was. A bunch of us got together and headed up into the mountains for a snow day.

I didn't ski, but I did grab a sled and rush head first on my belly down a ski run at about 1000mph. I got sideways, dodged a couple of trees, and crashed at the bottom into a huge snow drift. I think I even gave the world a big F-you, too. I know I was laughing the whole time. Good times.

Just a little while ago, Pam and I were out shopping. We stopped in at Panda Express for lunch. It rained all morning, so although we dried our feet as best as possible on the door mat, I took one step on the polished floor and felt like I was going to slip and fall.

So I walked like an 80 year old man, slowly and carefully, with very small steps, to a table and sat there while Pam went and got our food.

So much for the invincibility of youth! I was afraid to fall on a slick floor in a restaurant.

Charles Gramlich said...

Barrie, enjoy the sweetness while you can!

Oscar, Unfortunately I have some spinal problems from a motorcycle accident that make exercising virtually impossible. I'd be in better shape I'm sure if I could.

Travis Cody, That resonates. I've done much the same thing. Its a bit disconcerting, but it definitely has wisdom in it.

Anonymous said...

Charles another great post. Dylan Thomas was a fantastic poet and I offer you another favourite of mine .

Golden Eagle said...

Those are powerful lines--particularly the poem by Dylan Thomas.

Charles Gramlich said...

Richard, thanks for the link. Cool.

Golden Eagle, I don't know how Thomas did what he did. I'm very jealous of his talent

Erik Donald France said...

Voodoo Chile is so wicked cool ~~

Hear hear on ragin' to agin' ~ my immediate peers are really taking the hits by now . . .

It's as if we're on a large conveyor belt heading toward oblivion. Or the abyss. Or Heaven. Or nirvana. Or, or . . . Memories of raging days of youth!

SzélsőFa said...

fear? maybe, but with lots of wise words and some true wisdom.
and as someone over 40, i can relate to (r)aging. good post.
i will look up those links.

Charles Gramlich said...

Erik, the conveyor belt is a great metaphor for it. It certainly seems that way, and the belt is so crowded there's no turning back.

Szelsofa, fear and wisdom are not always easy to separate out!

j said...

Your description of teenage invincibility seems so masculine. I don't think I ever felt invincible. However, I do remember a few times as a teen feeling quite powerful, but in a completely female way.

Age (oh my aching back) is a booger but I'm thankful for life.