There are some songs that resonate so deeply with such a wide variety of artists (think the Byrds to the Ramones), that they all want to sing it. I think that’s the case with the Bob Dylan tune “My Back Pages.” And I don’t think it’s the weirdly specific and overly cryptic, as only Dylan can be, verses that vie for the listener’s attention. Not at all. It’s that beautiful refrain: “ah, but I was so much older then / I’m younger than that now.” Hell yes, Bob Dylan. That’s the kind of lyric that’ll get stuck in your throat.
What a beautiful and terrifying thing perspective is. It can feel like your very footing is being washed away when it starts to shift, but – at least in my experience – once you give into the mudslide, things have a way of coming together at just the right time. And not to lock in place again as some new and improved rule book for life, but so that future shifts in how you and I see the world aren’t so jarring.
I’m fearful of the person who still sees the world as they’ve always seen it, who views themself and their neighbor through whatever lens they were born with and makes no effort to do otherwise. And I’m equally fearful of becoming that person myself. Who am I, at 36, to think I’ve somehow figured it all out? And even if that was possible, why would I want to? What purpose would the rest of life have? Telling other people to get their shit together and be like me would get old quickly. One does not get invited to too many parties like that, and for good reason.
I was so old at twelve. It was 1992 and I was interested in politics (this can be detrimental to your access to parties as well). It was 1992, I was interested in politics, and I was a member of an evangelical Christian family. What a time to be alive. I read and listened to Rush Limbaugh. I got familiar with campaign literature. I did not like Bill Clinton at all. Conspiracy theories had weight in my life. I had this stuff figured out. It was us and it was them. What else mattered? As it turns out, quite a bit actually.
Bill Clinton was in the last two years of his second term by the time I left for college, and I had become a big fan. The man was a hell of a president, a skilled communicator, and a gifted politician. My perspective had changed, along with my landscape. And it’s kept on evolving, and without being restricted to how I vote. Every time that shift occurs, sometimes willingly and other times less so, there’s an opportunity to see the universe a little more clearly. If I allow myself, I may just be able to understand me and my damn neighbor a little better. And after walking that proverbial mile in their shoes a funny thing happens: the experience becomes shared, the joy and pain becomes real, those shoes become mine. Then what I once believed, once used to label or define people, once mistook as the end instead of the means, all becomes a memory and a lesson.
I’m younger than that now.