Tuesday, December 8, 2009

On Aging, and the Company We Keep

I heard two, distinct, arguments yesterday regarding the concept of aging gracefully as it pertains to artists. Aging gracefully is, by the way, something that I am trying my damnedest to figure out. Anyway, the two philosophies:
  1. People, including creative types, should stick with their own and be ready to acknowledge when a night club, event, gallery, or other institution is geared towards a market that is "too young" for them. To do otherwise might seem phoney, staged or ridiculous.
  2. No matter the age, artists and other creative types NEED to be around youth and young culture in order to stay inspired and/or edgy. The day a creative soul loses touch with young energy, he or she loses genius and starts making the kind of art "that matches the sofa."
Your thoughts?

Personally, whether I like it or not, I seem to lean towards the latter. Once upon a time, my friends were 3 to 4 years younger than me, then they were 10 years younger than me, and now I know more than a few people who are 15 years younger than me. But this could be part of the natural aging process. (When I was 27, I certainly wasn't hanging with 12 year olds. [This is Scott Barnes, not Roman Pulanski.]) It could be that as we reach this beastly thing called middle-age, we are able to form friendships with people who are both older and younger than ourselves.

At the same time, I don't want to be ridiculous. I remember when I was young and going out four nights a week, and always seeing the same 50 year old couple on the dance floor, surrounded by 23 year olds, and thinking, "God help me if I turn into one of those people."


  1. One of the joys of being a professor is that no matter how old you get your students remain the same age and each year you are rejuvenated by their ideas, even as you strive to help them come to their full potential. The business of education and research is defintiely one of creativity - and I can't imagine why I would not stick with where the new energy is :)

  2. Jason Warner jason378@sbcglobal.netDecember 9, 2009 at 10:03 AM

    People worry about it too much...except for clothing. I think if you're interested in something then explore it, go to that event, meet those people involved..........just don't do it while wearing an Abercrombie shirt and plucking out the gray chest hairs sticking out the top of the too tight tshirt.

  3. Oh honey, that last paragraph makes me really sad. I've never heard the term "those people" used in a healthy way. Is it ridiculous to enjoy dancing? Must that enjoyment end at 40 or some other arbitrary age? If these men weren't otherwise behaving foolishly, then I'm glad they were not intimidated away from the club by the judgment of kids who should know better than to look at anyone as if they don't belong.

    Regarding aging gracefully, I don't think it has much to do with knowing where and with whom one should be. I think the key is listening. Age often has the effect of closing the mind to new ideas. When we allow our experiences to limit our beliefs and perspectives, rather than allowing fresh ideas to test and expand them, then we really start to get old.

    On the other hand, the same danger exists for the young. When we allow our enthusiasm to limit our access to the wisdom of our elders, we are forced to re-invent the wheel, when we could be soaring to new heights.

    Keep an open mind with everyone around you, reserving judgment until it's absolutely necessary. Go where you want to go, not where others think you should be.

    And when you spot someone older in the crowd, introduce yourself and buy them a drink. They probably know a thing or two about being happy and aging gracefully.

  4. Riot, what I should have said about those particular people I called "those people" was that they acted and dressed like there were trying to fit in; they were pretending to be 20, not acknowledging that they were 50. They didn't want to be WITH youth as much as they wanted to still BE youthful. I got to know them well enough to pick up on a clear lack of growth and progress in them. It was sad.

    Jason, I think you're right, attitude and inspiration is one thing, fashion is another. I'll never forget seeing a 60ish man at Metro one summer who was wearing an Abercrombie tank top, orange capri pants, and flip flops. He looked like a child molestor.

  5. hehehe It's odd that I'd be comforted by bad fashion, but yes, I'm glad it wasn't merely their age that bothered you.

  6. No, I don't give two scoots how old a person is as long as they are good, honest, and inspiring.

  7. I think we should surround ourselves with all ages, artists or not.

    There is a huge difference between finding artistic inspiration in and around youth and/or a desperate attempt to cling to youth.

    Edginess is good....so is realism.

    I think that there can be beauty and inspiration in any age group.

  8. I truly do believe that, even if it is a cliche, you are as young as you feel. In both physical and mental form. For me, that number can vary wildly from day to day - mainly because it is painfully clear that I have not learned from neither experience nor the mistakes of my youth in some cases.

    In my late thirties, on the rare occasion I do go to a dance club, I find myself interestingly sandwiched (ahem) between the very young and middle aged. People in both categories, or all categories, know how to have a good time. Also, folks of all ages are capable of inspiring me to think, "God help me if I turn into one of those people."

    Good questions though. Not easy to answer.

  9. I'm with Phantoms and Voices in re college students.

    I think that aging gracefully is about doing whatever you're doing because you're enjoying it rather than because you're afraid of not doing it.

    I'd say, though, that this applies even to bad fashion. Why shouldn't the guy in the A&F tank wear something that seems totally inappropriate to us--assuming, that is, that he's got the right answer to the question above?

  10. I think you can be around much younger people for creative reasons but choose to not always do the same for social reasons. Some times doing the latter feels right, but as I age I find it less comfortable in more and more circumstances.