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A certain age
January 5, 2011 - Rick Chatenever
My birthday this week felt more auspicious than usual. Some of us Men of a Certain Age — the great title of a TV show I’ve never seen — have learned a few things on that highway we never realized would go this far this fast.
“I’d rather be over the hill than under it,” observed a guy in my age group at a recent open-ocean swim race. These races used to limited to so-called “Masters”; now they’re open to kids, some of whom barely come up to masters’ waist lines, but take off like schools of minnows at the start, leaving some masters feeling more like stationary buoys.
Swimming with kids is one way of holding the ravages of age at bay … or of just forgetting about them. That’s one of the few things that actually gets easier with age: forgetting. The challenge of ocean swims becomes less about speed, and more about remembering what you’re doing out there in the first place … not to mention, remembering to finish.
What once was junk mail from Medicare and Social Security now is personally addressed to me … and really does require my attention.
A generation that once swore it would never do anything as uncool as get old has done just that.
Happily, this situation comes more to my surprise than dismay. Amidst all the front-page ruminations about the first wave of baby boomers turning 65 in 2011, in this first week of a new decade I realized they were talking about me.
I am the tip of that iceberg. Hey, look — I’ve become a statistic. How did that happen?
We have always been the generation that changed everything — beginning with thinking of ourselves as a generation in the first place.
Before us, you were a kid, then you grew up. But our new concept of being a teenager — not to mention, in love —came in handy. It was comforting to realize you weren’t alone when trying to navigate the emotional icebergs of adolescence. It also came in handy for selling blue jeans and records, but that was for grown-ups to think about, not us.
Perhaps truth in advertising is finally catching up, like a cop car waving our joyride over to the curb. With an AARP card in your pocket, might it finally be time to take the “baby” out of baby boomer?
On the other hand, anomalies are possible. Jerry Brown, once the youngest governor of California, was just sworn in as its oldest. With rock icons pushing 70 and film idols hitting 80, some of us aren’t going gently into that dark night. The Dustin Hoffman-Barbra Streisand Focker option —becoming a pair of horny, not-very-funny grandparents — is not the only choice.
After eight years, Stephen King just announced his retirement from writing a pop-culture column in Entertainment Weekly. He was worried about repeating himself.
I’m not. Despite the gnawing fear that the world is spinning out of control on the latest app or hand-held device, it feels like we still need our stories. And culture’s different out here. It doesn’t need to pop.
“Mana I Ka Leo, Power of the Voice,” a made-in-Hawaii documentary coming to the MACC’s McCoy Studio Theater at 3 p.m. Jan. 16, is a wonderful exploration of oli — Hawaiian chant. Made by Ruben Carillo and Dawn Kaniaupio, what sets the film apart aren’t its HD visions of Paradise, gorgeous as they are.
What’s unique is the way it captures the interconnected energy of nature in this unique place. Earth, wind, fire and water merge. The liquid fire of volcanic lava becomes new land. The running water of a mountain stream becomes new life. The voice of the chanter, the breath, is another form of that energy.
This isn’t a film that shows or tells, but rather touches our senses, as its energy sparks our own.
Energy is also on the mind of Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh, whose publisher just sent an advance copy of his upcoming book, “Peace is Every Breath.”
In the fewest number of the simplest words, the enlightened author —who will always be Thick Neat Hank to me — explains how to accomplish the book’s title for yourself.
It’s a matter of waking up and paying attention.
It’s so simple, it’s magic.
Next week, a new semester begins at UH-Maui College. In my English 100 class, it’s always fun to discover who’s the teacher and who’s the student on any particular day.
Back when I was a younger man, I saw the old codgers through the mist on the other side of the generation gap, mostly complaining as they rocked in their rocking chairs.
Having now made it to the other side, I’ll try to keep the complaining to a minimum. I won’t keep harping on how much better it used to be, either.
If I don’t forget.
• Contact Rick Chatenever at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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