My Back Pages is a song written by Bob Dylan and performed by the Byrds way back in the 60s. And… it’s a little bit more than that. If you’ve heard it, you know. If you haven’t, give yourself a three-minute treat and watch it below with Dylan, McGuinn, Clapton, the late George Harrison, Neil Young, Petty, and GE Smith riding herd over them. It’s…memorable. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rGEIMCWob3U.
Okay, cool song. So what? It’s also the song and video I used a while back to kick-off a lecture to a group of artists and writers in the north-east. This was a lecture for my peers, and to be candid, your peers are the most critical crowd of all. I always prepare the old fashioned way for a lecture. I get it down cold so that even if my brain freezes, I should have something to fall back on. Then, when the proverbial checkered-flag went down, I threw all of the prep work to the wind and and kicked off with My Back Pages.
Ten seconds before that I heard my voice ask this: “How many of you are about 20 to 25 in your mind…but stuck inside a body you don’t even recognize in the mirror anymore? Every hand in the room went up…and we went to the video of the song. By the time the song was finishing up, every man and woman in the audience was singing out, loud and strong: Ah, but I was so much older then, I’m younger than that now.
I think this large audience was as surprised as I was at what was happening. We’d hit a nerve right in the first ten seconds and it’s a powerful nerve. You, who are sitting here reading this, whether you’re twenty-eight or sixty-eight, I’d be willing to bet that already on this planet, you’ve been through enough crap and disappointment and disillusionment and just bad luck, that you have the potential for looking at everything with jaded, cynical eyes. True? Yes or no. I know that I have been there, on the brink a number of times…seriously so, and yet, there’s that little kid that’s survived. He lives deep inside my brain and though he’s been through enough to be old and cynical as hell, here he is whispering in your ear.
It’s never too late to put a period at the end of a sentence, a paragraph, or a life story, then take two minutes to toast your accomplishments with a cookie and milk…or a glass of single malt. But then what? It’s time for a new chapter.
Pamela and I put our money where are mouths are and moved to what is a completely different world. But that’s just one way to start a chapter. Do you have a good set of vocal cords and always thought…”If I just had the time.” Or, “I always wanted to have set-up a rescue service for collies, or boxers, or Boston terriers…just never had the time.” I’m here to suggest that at some point in your life you have to draw a line in the sand and say, “It’s MY TURN!” Pamela (wisely) suggested this morning that I steer away from raving about the Asheville area. If you’ve been reading, you know the pros. So I will spare you a reiteration. Suffice it to say, Pamela and I have never been happier in our entire lives and the couple that live up where we lived, have decided the same thing. It’s that good. Nuff said.
Right now, Pam is on the fence down here. She’d like to start her own Boston terrier rescue center and boy, I’d love that. We have the location. But, she has some other irons in the fire and we’ll just have to wait and see what fork in the road she wants to take. Whatever it is…I’m in. Once again, for a number of years now, I’ve felt my age…not a particularly good thing, as I’ve been on the planet a while now. Now, I feel like about 27 in my mind every morning. I can put in a good six hours of what I want to do…and then take a siesta. Then do it again. To repeat once more from John Denver , “I was born in the summer of my sixty-seventh year, comin’ home to a place I’ve never been before” It feels great.
If there’s something you’ve always wanted to do, be brave, and be CREATIVE. It’s your life. And that ties in marvelously with that lecture I mentioned earlier. It was on CREATIVITY. It’s an important word, more so than you might think. You are ultimately the one who plans and executes each chapter in your life. Don’t do what everyone else does. Create the chapters you want to live. No one else is even watching, so just do it. The first actual slide in that lecture was something I’d come up with, as well as a definition I’ve been trying to boil-down for decades. I’ve been asked this question hundreds of times over the years and this is as close as I can get. Where the Back Pages lyric comes in, is with the second word in the equation: PASSION. If you can maintain, or relocate the passion in your life, that’s an integral part of your remaining young. It’s sounds simple and it’s not. But it is definitely possible and it’s doable.
Do you have an old clarinet or flute or saxophone in the closet that’s gathering dust? The instrument you always wanted to master? Drag that sucker out. I have two such instruments, an accordion I was never all that good at…and a saxophone that I was…well…I wasn’t all that good with that either…mostly because I was too embarrassed to let it wail. Not anymore. For starters, I’m playing the Theme from Moulin Rouge on the accordion for Pam and I’m getting The Shadow of Your Smile down on the sax…again. At the very least, I can probably scare away any raccoons that show up on the property. Good luck to “Y’all” and see if you’re actually living the chapter you want to live. Henry