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Monday, November 15, 2010

Twilight: Youth in the Dark

I found this article at the WSJ - its from last week: "Desire in the Twilight of Life".

How sad it is that people are so confused about life and love: "We prefer to think that older people are asexual, resigned to a certain loss of desire and vitality."

What do young people know about growing older?  Not very much, I'm afraid, because, as should be totally obvious, they haven't had time experienced real life yet.

First and foremost I find it remarkably short sighted on the part of the author to imagine that people accustomed to engaging in any artistic activity, typically for decades, would be "resigned to a certain loss of desire".   Its pretty clear this guy is around 40 from reading the article.  Yet he is apparently an expert in the sex lives of geezers mature adults. (BTW, WSJ author, if you have any doubt whatsoever about what I am implying here I dare you see what fascinating results Google might bring...)

But don't worry, rather than making everyone squirm with discomfort at the mere thought of uncomfortable or titillating specifics I think its far more important instead to address the follies of this article with mature, metaphoric prose.  You won't find any detailed, titillating imagery or descriptions below (so the kiddies can surf on to the next article - there won't be any jollies found here).

Picasso and Wright

Imagine Chicago without the "Chicago Picasso" - created in 1967 by the then 86 year old Pablo Picasso.  From Wikipedia regarding his later years: "Devoting his full energies to his work, Picasso became more daring, his works more colorful and expressive, and from 1968 through 1971 he produced a torrent of paintings and hundreds of copperplate etchings."

Similarly, Frank Lloyd Wright, the prolific architect, designed the Guggenheim Museum of Modern art in his 90's. 

While not everyone lives into their 90's its clear that great works are still possible at that age as these examples clearly exhibit.  Perhaps these artists did not create as frequently as they did in their youth but the results of their later-life activities live on today, decades after their respective death as epic, even iconic, works.

Romeo and Juliet

Youthful love always captures hearts and minds - whether its Romeo and Juliet or Lancelot and Guinevere - because of its struggle for the ideal of love as well as for its purity. 

But, as most mature adults come to realize, real life happens after the young lovers are together: either through tragic death, or through simply growing up.  Imagine if Romeo and Juliet actually had lived - who would read about Juliet struggling to change diapers or pouting because Romeo was off at the bar late in the evening.  No, I think the ideal of love best not address the all too often reality of these types of unions.

Certainly Juliet or Lancelot had parents and clearly the young lovers are the product of their union.  But no one finds their parents lives romantic, ideal, pure or, for that matter, even remotely interesting.  Yet without their parents, grandparents and great grandparents none of the young lovers would exist at all; and of course these not-so-famous ancestors presumably continued on with their lives well beyond the follies and errant tragedies of their offspring.

McCarney and Watts

Then there is the question of the artistry itself.  Are the Picasso's or buildings of Wrights' later life any less remarkable than those created in their youth?


And we need look no further than the realm of music for guidance. 

Paul McCartney, the former Beatles member, recently performed at the local arena where I live.  He's in his late 60's now - my friend saw him play - for some three hours without a break.  And, of course, the arena was sold out - jammed with screaming fans for the entire show.  But McCarney delivered.

Though I doubt he still practices and plays as much as he did in his youth he was, according to my friend, still able to "quite effectively close the deal" when he needed to.  Does this mean he has less desire?  Or merely more non-musical things to do (especially given wife #3)?

Similarly there's Charlie Watts of the Rolling Stones - pushing 70 and still on stage with the rest of the boys for a good hour and half show at least.

The point of all this is the skill for art, musical performance and otherwise, obviously continues on well into late life, and, as any true artist will tell you, they can always still deliver.

The results are all around you if you just open your eyes.

So why are old mature folks and their perfectly normal lives look upon with such trepidation?  Today's youth, Madison avenue and modern culture all share the blame I think.  Kids think that Viagra is required for sex, and not just because you're old, either. 

Things like the modern Viagra culture with its negative impact on men are merely products of this same modern marketing nonsense.  And who could forget these ridiculous old geezers singing about Viagra (link here if you've got a strong stomach) or those idiots sitting at the beach in their bathtub's contemplating Cialis.

The negative impact of this culture on women is a story in and of itself: negative body images, weight and dieting, lotions and potions, plastic surgery, unrealistic bedroom expectations.  Females smitten with internet imagery are now driving cosmentic vaginoplasty into position as one of the faster-growing elective female surgeries - even for teenage girls.

Fortunately for me, I am too old for all this.

Real art is lifelong and a commitment to art is just that, commitment. 

Chemically and mechanically enhanced frauds need not apply (I mean no disrespect to my fallen comrades and those truly afflicted - my scorn is cast only at the imposters).

And to the WSJ article.  It concludes "Changing our approach to the romantic lives of older Americans will not be easy."

Older Americans know something the article's author doesn't: how to live life outside the Madison Avenue marketing culture.  (At 53 I escaped the bubble but I fear most of those a few years behind will not be so lucky.)

The only approach that needs to change is that of fools who don't understand the concept of maturity and aging.

No, the only twilight here is that of common sense.

We old farts have no need to explain ourselves to anyone.

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