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Memories of the 28th Century

Is it true that I’m no longer young?

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This is something that I wrote a few months ago and forgot about, but it’s worth the wait.

I don’t worry about it, but as with my questions about the perception of time, I wonder how other people perceive their own aging. There are many signs, both real and illusory, of aging, and they appear at different times in different people’s lives. I have been listening to the Jefferson Airplane recently, and I enjoy their lyrics and sounds more now than I did when they were fresh and new. To a significant degree they reflected an illusory view toward age and aging, that I suspect they are still happy with, and there would be little need to change the lyrics to reflect changing attitudes, even though their opinions were fluid; the fluidity is what I like most about the Airplane.

Consider the lyrics of “Lather” by Grace Slick. The lyric poem is about Lather having reached the fine, early middle-age mark of thirty years, but, for the poetess, it marked the end of being young (sort of), “Is it true that I’m no longer young?” The song goes through Lather giving up youthful things, etc., but it ends with the unforgettable lines: “And I should have told him, 'No, you're not old.' / And I should have let him go on... smiling... baby wide.” (from Lather” by Grace Slick).

It is said that Spencer Dryden was the model for Lather, and he "was dismissed from the band in February 1970 by a unanimous vote of the other members", because he was thought somehow improper of the band (I wonder how they phrased it). In my opinion, his departure marked the end of the truly great era of the Jefferson Airplane that had begun when they brought in Grace Slick. I know the group kept going, but it wasn’t the same. (This is a rather good article.)

Some may consider that was a little out of character for an era and philosophical movement that was said to worship youth, and in “We Can Be Together” (written by Paul Kantner) there is the beautiful line “We are obscene, lawless, hideous, dangerous, dirty, violent, and young”. Here the reference to “young” was a mark of distinction, something to set us apart from the rest of humanity; it makes a great song, but I see it as a matter of attitude, rather than chronology. I love hearing that line now, and it still refers to me. That song is chock full of ironic contradictions, and it comes down on my side in each case; it’s no wonder that I like that song still. The youth culture of that time was not about chronology; it was about an attitude that included tolerance and intellectual openness, real old-fashioned 18th century liberalism. It was diametrically opposed to the totalitarian ideas that were (and still are) pushed by Socialists and other movements that think that people can be “politically incorrect”. The incorrectness is in thinking that any individual has all of the answers for anyone else.

My present attitude is reflected more clearly in Bob Dylan’s lines: “Ah, but I was so much older then, I'm younger than that now” (from My Back Pages), because in most ways I feel younger now than I did when those lines were written.

Which brings me to the point: is one’s attitude toward age and aging determined by one’s age as a percent of one’s total lifespan? When the Airplane was created I was serous-minded and diligent. Alas, I had no significant opportunities for much else, but I didn’t let that bother me. I enjoyed the attitudes and sounds of the Airplane more than any other bands, and when people with whom I associated switched to other noises, it made little difference to me, and I noticed that I didn’t especially like music at all; although I love great lyric poetry. Through the weeks since then, I have become younger and more appreciative of the attitudes of the Woodstock Nation.
That doesn’t mean that I think that socialism is a good idea. No, that nation favored no government, rather than government that controlled everything. And yes, I am still an anarchist.

There are a few subsidiary questions that are more personal in nature, and you, oh reader, may want to consider those for yourself. For one example, I was born on the twenty-seventh day of the sixth month of the 1370th year; how old does that make me now?
And how old do you feel?
And as Grace stated, "You're only as pretty as you feel."

We Can Be Together
My Backpages
My Backpages, an earlier version

Updated 08-14-2014 at 06:41 PM by PeterL