Learning to Live With Yourself

The drive home tonight was made infinitely more enjoyable by an NPR interview with a legend I only barely recall from my younger days: Merle Haggard. At age 70, he’s got a new disk, a bluegrass sound this time around, and the sand and wisdom of years in his voice.

The interview was a breath of fresh air in the midst of campaign coverage, and I encourage you to check it out here. If you’ve got the connection for it, click Listen Now. It’s so much better, funnier, and more musical (not to mention quite a bit longer) live.

It got me thinking: first, about my last post, and his favorite song of the new batch, “Learning to Live With Myself.” Sounds like it’s a lifelong journey.

And second, about the notion of “growing old gracefully.” Too often our culture seems ashamed of our aging population; consequently, sometime older folks are embarrassed or ashamed to slow down or show infirmity.

But I remember Dad’s old friend Louie Randall, who spoke in a wheezing whisper through a hole in his windpipe and swung a three-pound sledge like it was a meat tenderizer well into his 70s. And I recall the the first time I saw Johnny Cash’s hauntingly beautiful video rendition of Nine Inch Nail’s “Hurt”—gazing into the camera, frail and unapologetic. And I remember Pope John Paul II, hunched and trembling, waving off his aides (dare I say irritably?) to give hope to hundreds of thousands of young people from around the world. They didn’t turn away, but loved him for it.

And I hope that I one day I’ll be every bit as weathered and white and tough as these old men. In this life of ease and plenty, however, it seems unlikely.

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