Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Somethin' Happenin' Here

Teach Your Children
After the first three notes plucked on the lead guitar, the crowd of 5 thousand jumped to their collective feet and rushed the stage.  Fists pumping in the air and reciting every word to the song they had first heard over 40 years ago, this audience of gray hair, overweight and joyful fans were transported.  Transported to a time when the whole world was a concert, when the whole world was teeming with possibility, when their whole lives stretched in front of them.   When Steve Stills sang, 'Stop children, what's that sound, everybody look what's going down,' he was talking directly to that young person who is still alive, exuberant, expressive, and passionate in this crowd in October 2010.

This crowd may be over 60 with grandchildren and a paunch but they still have a spark of life that can be fanned.  Three 65+ rockers, Crosby, Stills and Nash played many of their classic songs from 'Teach Your Children' to 'Marrakesh Express' to 'Almost Cut My Hair.' It was a transcendent moment for me at the recent AARP convention in Orlando, FL.  After attending workshops on traveling smart, easing back and foot pain, finding romance later in life, investing for the long retirement, and reinvention in the third chapter of life, this enthusiastic cohort were reliving the dream of youth.  That dream born in the Sixties still lives inside each of us.  The dream of freedom, creativity, making a difference, and community.  I did not know anyone in that crowd but I was with my people.  We don't look the same but we still have the dream.  Many of the way-showers have moved on but the flame still burns, if we give it fuel.

What does it take to fan the flame?  To feed the fire?  Just as we did back in the day, the first step is CURIOSITY.  What's goin' on?  As Nash says in Marrakesh Express, 'Sweeping cobwebs from the edges of my mind had to get away to see what we could find,' an adventurous life is possible at this stage of life.  The adventure may take different forms than before, maybe not back packing in third class train cars in Morocco or protest marching in Golden Gate Park with a hundred thousand other kids but it can be an adventure.  Exploring old passions left by the wayside, while we grew up and took care of business; paid the mortgage, raised the kids, contributed to the pension plan and acted responsibly.  Now, as Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot calls it, the Third Chapter (the years from 50-75) when we can stop,look, and revive the dream that was shelved.

Next step is COMMITMENT to the journey.  Just as when I traveled to Europe at nineteen with a one way ticket and a few hundred dollars in American Express travelers checks and a forty pound backpack.   I was committed to staying til I got to to Marrakesh.  Not fearless but confident that I could do it and in those days the only connection from home was a letter every month at the local American Express office.  If you lost your checks, which happened to me, you take a menial job.   No call home, no ATM.  Passion for adventure ruled the zeitgeist of the day.  Dig down and discover and nurture a passion, set the goal, and do it.  Perhaps you take an acting class or sign up for a tour to the Ganges or volunteer overseas.

As in the group catharsis at the convention, the dream is not solitary.  It is revived and sustained by COMMUNITY.  Enroll your support group of fellow travelers who get it and who are also on the quest for the fire of life.  Remind yourself and your friends that is not about being fearless, it is about courage.  Courage comes from the root word coeur--heart.  We take care of our physical heart with working out at the gym and eating right, but how about the soul's heart?  Keep it well by building community to sustain your heart's dream.  Where do you find these fellow travelers?  In a class, at a community center, at the AARP convention, at the gym; anywhere active and vital people congregate.  You are not alone and you might find that if you take the first step and say something about your dream or your passion it may awaken something in an acquaintance.  That acquaintance may become your accomplice on the road to Marrakesh.

We all have the flame and now is our chance to be ourselves and as Nash said, 'teach your children well...we all have a code we must live by.'  Demanding a half hour of encores the crowd at the concert was not going quietly into the dark night but with fists in the air, voices shouting, feet dancing for what its worth.