If you had sat down the fifteen year old me and told him that one day he would be fronting a punk rock band, that kid would have shyly told you that you were clearly on glue. The fifteen year old me was a shadow of a person, quiet to the point of unnerving, and musically fixated on hip hop and rap music.
At this point, I have allowed my tastes to widen dramatically. In one night I have played my upright bass in an ambient sort of folky/rocky band (The Keith Morrison Band) and my electric bass in a ridiculous luchadore-themed hardcore punk band (The Dead Benoits). While I do not proclaim to love every kind of music there is, I can find true connection in such a wide variety of musical styles that sometimes the hardest decision I will be faced with all day is what to listen to. And yet, I know that one day I may well be That Guy who says that kids today are listening to music that really isn’t music. My kids (or their kids) will play for me whatever tripe is presently being foisted into the ear buds of teens, and I may seek nothing more than to deposit my stomach contents upon my shoes.
There are those who would look at me and argue that this has already happened. I have no love for the radio-friendly crap that These Kids Today are listening to, but I can assure you, my disdain is not based on age. I have actively avoided the Top 40 music situation since starting high school simply because I felt that pop music was devoid of anything worthwhile. The past more-than-five years have not presented me with anything that would change that opinion. When my daughter Spazz lived with me, she liked terrible music. I tried very hard to impress upon her this fact, and between the Lovely Lady and I, we exposed her to much better music (The Distillers, The Runaways, stuff like that), but we still had to listen to a lot of awful music.
But there may come a time when it isn’t just the fact that the popular music is commercialized teen emotion with no depth of feeling and no real skill required. There may come a time when it just isn’t music anymore, at least to my ears. I may, through no fault of my own, narrow my musical tastes dramatically. I believe it is how we have evolved, and it is sad to imagine.
This situation, this opening and closing of interest, is true of our approach to many things. In time, a piece of bread with butter will be far more engaging to me than barbecued steak. Perhaps even those bizarre clothes that the aged choose off the rack at the back of the department store will become appealing, and the idea of wandering the city with the t-shirt of some local punk band will strike me as tacky and ugly.
These things are quite possibly inevitable, products of the way our species has evolved. But I can still hope that I am wrong about this. The limiting of interest is ultimately a limiting of joy, and I happen to be quite partial to joy. I am heartened by the knowledge that there are people who have aged and remain excited about life, about a good steak, and about discovering new things. I hope to be one of them, the eccentric weirdo whom all the regular old folks think has lost his marbles.
I don’t mind my interests changing, I just don’t like the idea of them fading. I think about this from a neuroscientific spectator’s perspective, and I think that fighting against it may be difficult, may even be impossible, but will be worth it. I plan on opening doors to new experiences whenever I can. I plan on learning languages, a sure-fire way to keep the brain engaged and fight off the evils of dementia. I plan on traveling. I plan on embracing the new for as long as I can.
If there does come a time when I am a crunchy old person, my pants belted too high up my sagging stomach, my face lined in a perpetual scowl, and my ears constantly whistling the tune of the hearing aid, I will accept that. But until I have no choice, I will fight back. I will read, love, dream, and laugh whenever I can. I owe that much to myself.