I always, even when I was young, felt it was odd that we celebrate youth so emphatically in our culture. It seemed like we wrote people off the minute they no longer had that youthful glow. And we chase the preservation of that look to the tune of millions of dollars. I'm not judging that. I would love to look 30 again if I didn't have to live all the years over again (and learn all those dad-gummed lessons). But I'm just beginning to glimpse what seems to lie beneath the desire to look young.
Last night I went to a Sun City choir concert with my mom and friends. One hundred and forty voices. They put on a great show. Clearly they loved to sing, and the audience responded. During the concert, two things struck me, and they've been milling around in my mind ever since.
The first is that we do to voices the same thing we do to faces. We love them when they are young. That is how they are supposed to be, right? Strong and clear. And why do we not consider that they are still good, in fact still beautiful, when they are no longer that way? Are they not also a shared part of a person, a gift to the listener? If people are interesting and beautiful their whole lives, even after the coveted tight skin and sparkling eyes are not so much there anymore, can't we learn to hear the beauty in voices that have lived a lifetime? I'm guilty of listening with a narrow ear, a mind-made-up as to how a voice is supposed to sound. Now, I'm thinking I might learn something by abandoning that judgmental approach. I might hear beauty where I've closed my mind to it before.
The other thing that happened involved a rendition of Younger Than Springtime showcasing the men. The narrator admitted that though the song from South Pacific was originally sung by a very young man to an even younger woman, these Sun City men, these singers of a certain age, remembered. They could remember. And they sang like it. I get teary thinking about it. Their faces showed the depth of their memories. It was beautiful. And it got me thinking about youth.
What if a big reason we chase and adore and covet youth has as much to do with where we are in time as it does with the physical aspects? Maybe knowing we are much closer to death than we were when were young causes us to try and put a stop to the clock. Maybe we just don't want to go. We don't want to look like it's time to go. Maybe this seems obvious, but if it does, I've missed it along the way. Maybe it hasn't occurred to me because I don't want to know. Maybe. But I can tell you that on the inside, most of the people I know whose outsides say otherwise, still feel younger than springtime.