Getting older is the oddest experience. It brings with it a yearning for the past. I don’t want to go back and relive my life, heaven forbid, but I do want to reach out and touch it, reclaim it for a moment. I was not only the size of a peanut with an arrogance that knew no boundaries and a political slant that was so far left I walked with a tilt, I was completely disconnected from my future as an older person. I was Peter Pan and I would never show a wrinkle or gain a pound and the world would stay the same as well ─ youthful, mystical and poetic, even magical in the pain of transformation.
I proudly remember myself as a child of the sixties; young woman of the seventies, that time in our history when innocence was violated and the passionate pursuit of compassion for the underdog was something worth dying for. Emotion was raw. Lyrics in music ripped you apart. It wasn’t just the scratchy pain in Joplin’s voice or the wisdom of Dylan; it was a time in which Suzanne could take you down to a place by the river, you could get in someone’s blood like holy wine, feel nostalgic without knowing why just because someone left the cake out in the rain. The sixties and early seventies was a scream from the gut; that’s for sure. Looking back, it feels sometimes like a birth we are now responsible for. I guess we can take pride in our accomplishments…..civil rights, women’s liberation, a rebellion that changed laws and mindsets. I notice though, now that I am older, how the results of our passions do not resemble us, not really. Our children and, dare I say it, our children’s children, on average, don’t care quite as radically. They can’t touch the places we’ve been. Their anger is something else, an apolitical, egocentric scream for attention, a nasty confrontation against the pain of poverty, a rather sexy, unabashed striptease.
I guess we were the unsexy generation. Though we took off all our clothes and bared our asses to the world, we really ached for love, not sex. We pinned our loss of innocence on righteous picket lines. We questioned our sexuality without flaunting our curiosities. We smoked marijuana because we sought a mellow place, not necessarily an aphrodisiac to intensify the ease in which we fornicated, nor did we realize the degree to which the drug culture would darken our futures. We made movies like The Fox and wrote plays like Boys In The Band. We tortured ourselves for the dark and unsettling cravings of our libido, which isn’t at all sexy. We even punished ourselves for being human and sought solace in EST and therapy. It was as if our generation invented psychotherapy. We hated the Vietnam War and never stopped protesting and blaming all the wrong people. We obsessed on politics until we lost, until our heroes died and left us with the consequences, the backlash of where liberal pursuits will get you…..yuppies just too cute for their underwear, a restrictive and rigid religion intent on swaying the vote, a spirituality that dissects us and drives us apart. We no longer question our existence. We don’t make movies like ET anymore or write books about aliens who’ve come to warn us, to whisper our destiny. Our country is about to pollute itself into a world of lost species. We now have a society tainted by horrific acts of terrorism and brain dead on reality shows. Perhaps all the aliens had to say was live long enough and you’ll see for yourselves, you’ll see the road ahead, the one paved with lack of foresight, hatred and an indifference to life. So be it for Nostradamus and space aliens…..what the hell did they know?All I can say is there is something to be said for getting older. You can watch the world become a place that is too young to realize its mistakes, too arrogant to care. You can hope for wisdom, someday, while the blood flows and music bombards the senses with despair, unless you turn on mellow jazz and remember better times. You can look at women who don’t even know they ever had to be liberated; people of color who toss around the N word like a proud banner only they can utter, presidents who just never watched enough war movies to abhor the violence.
Sexy people rule now. In my time, the rules were being written by a generation committed to righting all the wrongs, and “sexy” was in the introspective quiet of our hearts, the fire and rain of loss, the Chelsea mornings of our youth we thought we’d wake to forever. How odd to be growing older, riding the wave of history, wondering if this generation will feel nostalgic over the tattoos its adopted, the role models it emulates, the presidents it elects, the policies it changes. I wonder and wouldn’t doubt it but the truth is, no matter how efficient and user friendly we make the world, we’re still standing in the same place spiritually. We may even be in a spiritual decline, or is that obvious? That said, what goes around comes around, perhaps a loss so great we are forced to deepen and reconnect as people. Is that our destiny? We can never go back, the past is written and the children of the sixties have sung their song, their voices a powerful legacy. Hopefully, we will mend our mistakes. But if we don’t, perhaps a new kind of understanding will arise, an era of creative thought and compassionate rule, a world intent on rebuilding a more profound humanity, one in which sexy isn’t trying so hard, and love is a natural expression of our generosity of spirit. Maybe one day, our respect for our planet and the differences between people will be a natural given at birth, the pride of being human unfettered by the threat of monsters, a true gift of life, as it should be. Hey, that’s all we ever really wanted.
Vera Jane Cook
Dancing Backward In Paradise was published in November 2006. The book has received rave reviews from Armchair Interviews and Midwest Book reviews, as well as an Eric Hoffer and Indie Excellence award in the Literary fiction category. Vera’s next book, Hearts Upon a Fragile Bough, will be published in 2008. Vera Jane Cook has completed five novels and is presently working on a non-fiction book about getting creative in corporate America. Vera also plans to give seminars on the subject. To learn more about her books you can visit her web site at www.verajanecook.com
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