Thursday, January 21, 2010

Tempus Fugit

Another January gone by, another birthday approaches. I don’t feel any different, and yet as the last few years have passed I am starting to feel irrelevant. That the world as it is now is not one in which I am valued as a customer, a client, a participant. That there has been a fundamental shift in values, that everything has sped up, that we have lost so much in our race to have the latest technology, to have it all now now now. I feel this way because most of my friends have Blackberries, iPhones, and Twitter accounts while I remain thus unencumbered, and while I once would have felt left out, I now just regard it all with a sort of bemused detachment. It’s not that I don’t care about or want to know about all this stuff, it’s that my life doesn’t move at that pace anymore and more importantly, I don’t care that it doesn’t. Who knows, maybe it never did to begin with.

Brian Wilson once wrote a song called “I Just Wasn’t Made for These Times.” Like me, he always felt like he was on the outside looking in, that he belonged to another time, another place than the one into which he had been born. That the things he thought were important were lost on others, that they valued things he found abhorrent or worse, irrelevant. I too, have felt that way most of my life. Have always been a step or two behind my contemporaries. Have always felt like I didn’t belong to their world in some indefinable way. Because of this, and because I don’t really look my age, I have always tended to fall in with people younger than myself. And yet because of this age discrepancy my friends and I lack a shared frame of reference. Which ends up making me feel even further removed from it all. There often seem to be not just distances but chasms between us.

I have never been a trailblazer or an innovator, either, a trait that just seems to add to that sense of detachment, that remove I’ve always felt. I have always been a step behind in most everything, it seems—in discovering the music that’s so important to me, the bands, the atmosphere, the fashions, the scene. I’ve always found offbeat things long after they’ve become acceptable and safe. I have no avant-garde spirit, I guess. Have always been unwilling or unable to take risks others have found necessary for their very survival. I guess it’s because my sense of self has always been shaky; after all, you can’t blaze trails without an idea of where you’re going and why. I don’t know. All I know is things are moving too fast for me and people don’t seem to pay attention to much anymore except making sure they’re keeping up.

It seems to me lately that it’s not the message that’s important anymore, it’s the medium. But that’s not the technology’s fault—it never was. After all, you can’t blame television or the telephone or the fax machine for how we have chosen to conduct our lives. No, things have changed because we have allowed them to; we failed to see the danger, and have thus become slaves to the very technological advancements that were supposed to make our lives simpler and easier. And of course most of us didn’t even realize what we’d lost until it was too late: things like sit-down dinner with the family, Sunday gatherings with the relatives, lingering over a well-cooked meal and a bottle of wine and some good conversation. Tasting the food, appreciating the labor involved in growing and harvesting it, the time and effort involved in its preparation, the satisfaction derived from having time to truly enjoy the smell, taste and texture of what we’re eating. Taking pleasure in good company while sharing these blessings. The slower pace of life, the satisfaction of simple things. We’ve lost that and we’re not getting it back. Paying attention to the small things in life seems so, well, archaic in these days of instant messaging and keeping up with the tweets.

I don’t know where all of this is leading, only that it has passed me by and I no longer have the energy to keep up with it all even if I wanted to. I guess in the end a large part of getting older is simply acceptance. Accepting my own faults and frailties, accepting myself for who and what I am. Accepting that events happen over which I have no control. Accepting there is nothing I can do about this. And most important of all, not wasting time and energy worrying about any of it.

So next week I draw nearer to the dreaded half-century mark. And as I do so, I become increasingly irrelevant to the world at large—or so it seems. (Assuming I was ever really relevant to begin with, which is an entirely different matter for another time.) I should be upset about this, I guess, and at one time in my life I suppose I would have been. But at my age, that’s just too much work.


  1. wow, i never woulld have guessed you were at the half century mark-i really thought you were my age which is 40 in less than a month. do not feel bad that you are not at the tech level--some days it's nice just to be silent. i will admit i have an iphone and love it b/c of what i have access too but at the same time-peace is lovely. happy birthday ahead of time too btw! and you are by far not irrelevant!

  2. You are not irrelevant! You have always been one of the coolest people I know, and a big part of that is the point of view and the running commentary that you're describing as detachment. I count on you to know what's really good and not to get swept up in fads just because they're new.

    Rock on!