Monday, 14 May 2007

Getting old and staying young

I've completely forgotten all the reasons I gave for not going out dancing every weekend (yes, this may just be the afterglow, but so what if it is?)

DJ -- house, trance, d'n'b (drum and bass) -- these are instrumental styles of music built on recorded bits of music -- a rhythm, an instrument noise, played and layered on top of each other, to create (as one sub-genre is named,) a trance-like state. A good DJ doesn't so much perform, as creates a space where dancers can cut loose, and then pokes and prods that space, through shifts in dynamics and sounds, to raise the crowd into a completely different place. After a whole night of this, the sheer sense of community, of having danced myself silly for four or six or eight hours, of having poured sweat with these other people, creates a sense of community among the dancers who remain as the party wears on. Everybody is your friend. The whole world is a beautiful place. Music is enough.

There's something wonderful about really dancing with abandon. For a cerebral fella like myself, who thinks everything to death and then some, to do something so physical is a return to my senses, to my body, like exercise or yoga, it re-balances me. This, of course, is quite healthy. I'm glad I went: I almost didn't. I've had a few other nights recently where I've thought, "Hey, I should go dancing," and then thought, "Oh, it'll be so crowded," or "I never make new friends when I go dancing anyway; why should I bother?" or some other excuse, but the fact is, once I'm actually out there dancing, if I'm actually there just to dance, the rest of the world backs off pretty quick. As soon as my heart-rate goes up, really.

As we get older, it seems many/most of us become less inclined to go out and jump into some new experience. Sure, sometimes those things are uncomfortable. . . but are they actually uncomfortable, or just unfamiliar?

Young people accuse old people of being too conservative, of never trying new things, of thinking too readily in the set forms. At what age, at what point, do our minds close, and is that a natural/almost inevitable part of growing old, or is it a choice we each make? I don't think it happens at one clear watershed moment -- or some people would be sharp enough, and sensitive enough, to realise, "this is the point where I choose to continue learning new things, or choose to stay in my groove until it becomes a rut", and choose new, adventurous paths. In Julius Caesar, Shakespeare wrote, "Cowards die many times before their deaths" -- each time he chooses the easy way instead of the path of right, or the path of greatness. Might growing old be like that too? Is it those thousand little deaths, those thousand little "no"'s piled up on top of each other, until leaning into the familiar and shunning the unknown/uncomfortable becomes part of our nature? Is there anything wrong with that, or is that another (negative) way of describing the natural process of putting down roots?

On the other hand, part of it is our responsibilities. It's harder to go out and dance all night if one is committed to a 10am Men's breakfast, or church attendance, or family Saturdays. As your life gets more involved, more rooted, one must make cancellations, if one would do something spontaneous. And let's be honest -- some people go have adventures because their friends are, rather than because of any open-mindedness on their own part.

Might it be that we forget to break routine, that it simply stops occurring to us?

I don't know. Anyway, I've been thinking about what it means to grow up, the difference between growing up and growing old, and such things, lately, as I've met people who have told me I'm young-hearted, and other variations on that theme. It seems that usually when I'm called young-hearted, it's closely connected with my willingness to try new things, or to try and understand things on their own terms, rather than trying to force my own filters of understanding on them. Among the people I've spoken with, there seems to be some kind of implicit assumption that one of the divisions between youth and age is some kind of . . . I hate to say shutting of the mind, so let's say some kind of entrenchment in ones' own ways. Of course, this entrenchment can be caused by a lot of different things -- I think often it's dictated by the requirements of one's commitments -- the schedule required by work, by family, etc., that leads people to becoming "responsible adults". Sometimes the main determiner is sheer physical health, or budget -- some people stop drinking heavily simply because their bodies start taking three days to recover from one night on the town, or because they need to make their car payments.

I'd be interested to hear what some of you (my lovely readers) think about this. What do YOU think is the difference between growing up and growing old, and, especially, what changes inside a person when they become an "adult" -- is it something external, or internal, or a combination, or is it another of those frustrating things that's totally different for every person alive? (Probably, eh?)

(For a really beautiful insight on growing up, watch the movie "Finding Neverland", one of the most touching, tender movies about growing up and staying young I've seen. It's so compassionate toward its characters, the movie loves its characters, which makes YOU love them, too. It's really wonderful.)

By the way: here are some of the movies I've seen that have made me love or care about their characters recently. They also double as some of my favourite movies of the last five years. (Go figure.) In my world, if you don't have compassion, why are you writing a screenplay, book, play, etc.?

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind -- the truest look at how people love each other, and hurt the ones they love the most, I've seen. Might be the wisest love story ever to come out of Hollywood.
Million Dollar Baby
Finding Neverland
Leaving Las Vegas (so so sad, but also so respectful of both main characters.)

Going back a bit, you just gotta see Casablanca. Really.

k. love you all



(addendum:) I read a few comments on this blog, and I want to add. . . how terribly judgemental I sound here! I've thought again about what I said there, about those thousand little deaths, the thousand little no's -- there is much more than that. Maybe there's a difference between closing one's mind, and simply choosing to focus one's mind in a chosen direction. There must be. Some people choose "no" -- they choose to stay in a rut, rather than working to improve their lives. However, I think some people also simply commit to the choices they've already made, and by doing that, they open up new channels that can't be opened if you don't commit to them.

For example: marriage. If looked at one way, it's a way of saying "no" to every other potential mate in the world. How terribly narrow-minded! Why would anyone ever do that? Yet in another way, it's a way of saying "Yes!" to a future with a single person. The options and possiblities that can open up when one commits to that kind of future, are amazing, and beautiful, and praiseworthy. So maybe, a person isn't so much saying "no" to some kinds of new experiences, as saying "yes" to deepening and committing to another kind of experience. That's another kind of growing old/growing up, but it's good, as long as one doesn't start insisting others follow the same path, and judging others who choose a different way (that's where crotchety old men/women come from. . . maybe). Some people choose a path, and grow. Some people choose a path, and grow old. Maybe you don't really grow OLD until you've stopped growing on the path you've chosen. . . and I bet you start growing old much faster if you start regretting that chosen path, but do nothing to change your outlook.

There. Is that a more even-handed, less "young-and-single"-centric view of growing old?


kelly said...

Hi rob...

long time no talk. how's it going? I belive everything is all right with you.

I have a simple answer for the above question. ^^ 'Getting Up:Open Mind / Getting Old:Close Mind' I don't think it's a matter of age and gender, physical strength.

PS. I went to Durga as you told us. it was very fantastic for me and a friend of mind. great foods and lovely price :) thanks for your kind info.

melissa and brent said...

So glad I'm the first to leap in here--I had comments up the wazoo halfway into your first paragraph!!! I'd say that a closing of the mind is traditionally associated with age, but really has nothing to do with it at all. Some people happen to be open minded people who jump into experiences and spontaneous happenstances with joy, and others are cautious. When we are 'young' and dancing it seems like we are all open minded and spontaneous, but really many of us are following the popular opinion or activity and not truly courageous. For the people of the seemingly conservative next generation up, they seem to themselves to be open minded and spontaneous compared to the next generation above really has nothing to do with open mindedness and everything to do with popular accepted opinion in that generation, which happens to make that generation feel more enlightened and accepting than any previous generation.
I have many friends who are 'grown up' and don't dance, but who leap into the unknown all the time. Two live in Mexico with their two children. Two are in the process of moving to Cebu in the Phillipines after three years in Thailand. One lives in Korea and likes the spice of life (I took the kids to Cham Namoo last week for supper, yum yum). Several are paramedics who live on the silver edge of spontaneous. I play often, it just looks different from dancing at the club. We dance in my living room instead! I think that spontaneity and joy are a way of living that has nothing to do with age or activity and much more to do with state of mind...
The difference between growing up and growing old is that growing up entails wrapping yourself around other people while remembering who you are (youth, I think, necessarily wraps itself around itself in order to discover who it truly is), while growing old in the sense that you mention it, (because it can be beautiful) I think is a manifestation of people who liked to follow the dancers when they were young.

bradj said...

I remember sitting in my dorm one night about 10yrs ago, and thinking: "Maturity is the point at which you start trying to define maturity". Instantly, my next thought was "And that's why I don't ever want to be mature!" :-)

To me, age is the gradual reduction of energy, and the corresponding increase in wisdom to know where to expend/invest it.

I guess that's the reality and the hope -- the second part isn't necessarily a given...

How do you define a new experience? I'm a photographer. I respond the same way to many different stimuli -- I reach for my camera. But each time I learn something different about myself, my world, the technique etc. Also, I intend to make motorcycling a part of my life. Riding will become somewhat predictable, but the experience is always slightly different. That same thing can happen even if you go to the same cottage every summer -- there's always something new available, even in the mundane.

So the follow-up: What's new, and what's known? What's a root and what's a rut? It's all about personality and perspective.

Mud On His Shoes said...

Hello Rob

I worked with your sister in langley and am now living in Seoul did the HIseoul DJ fest inspire any of these musings
really appreciated the post

tamie said...

I really appreciated Melissa's thoughts--thank you. Rob, you're asking good questions, which seems to me to be half of it. I do not have answers, but ask similar questions.

I believe that humility is a key ingredient in true maturity, and in true openness.

That is my thought for the moment.