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February 26th, 2003

losing the luxury of ennui

"I used to be a boy--my heart was young and supple then. Now it's stony cold; I'm old and I could use a friend. My world is not like yours, I come from somewhere long ago. Now there's no way back. I'm lost and I feel so alone". --Bill Nelson, from "Life in the Air Age".

I've always been attracted to rock songs about world-weariness. For some reason, being tired of it all has a real lyrical appeal to me. Although it is rather a different point, I think there's a synchrony that I am much more oriented to post-punk than punk and most of my favorite forms of rock have a modifying adjective preceding them, such as "art", "progressive" or "electronic".

As I get older, though, I begin to realize that many of the songs I love the best which deal with the sheer cosmic weight of time on one's shoulders, were in fact written by twenty five year olds. I have come to realize that world-weariness in the bistro sense is a luxury of the young. Perhaps it's no surprise that in general, the rock music industry has proven remarkable age-ist. But I remember being in my early twenties, listening to Bryan Ferry or David Bowie songs, thinking about how very old and tired I felt with life.

I now regard this form of ennui as a commodity I can no longer afford. I've gotten my bifocals, I've seen the lines begin to appear, and I've noticed how the kids behind the counter accord me near-fossil status. More importantly, I see real weariness a few short decades in my future, barring disease or an errant Buick. I simply no longer have the time for romantic despair, as there is too much actual day to day living (including the sometime entry into despair) to do. I read one of those on-line articles about a study that suggests that people who try to act happy and friendly end up feeling more happy and friendly than otherwise. I'm wary of such clever conclusions. But I am sure that even as the years make me like better than ever those sweeping lyrical expressions of contemptus mundi, the years also teach me that life is far too short. I must savor what little I am allotted while I can. Even the most optimistic faiths assure me this is only a passage--and I don't have time to tarry on the misplaced longings that sell records but do not save souls.