Autumn Music

It is an experience as old as humanity itself. At least humanity that started to realize that age, as remote as it may seem, will always eventually catch up with you. This past weekend was Family Weekend at my daughter’s college. Since her school does things up right, there were a variety of events on offer, one of which was an a cappella group concert. A cappella has come a long way since my college days, with students able to use their voices to sound like a band, professionally mixed, and full of energy. Somehow, I don’t recall that much energy from when I was a student. In any case, the inevitable group doing “oldies” took the stage an opened with a song from 1987. Wait. What? Since when was a song of which I remember the first release an oldie? The kids did a great cover, and I suspect in their minds it was really an old song. I was only 25 when it was given to the world. Can I really be an oldie? Outside the leaves on the trees were brilliant, as if on cue for the tuition payers to have their heartstrings wrung. Trees become their most alluring as they are about to die.

Songs, however, have a way of becoming part of you. Back when we were young(er) and idealistic, my wife had thought to study music therapy. Nashotah House, however, decided to change the career trajectories of an entire family in the name of orthodoxy. One of the things she learned in her classwork, prior to being sent back to the work-a-day world, was that patients suffering from dementia can often sing a song from their youth, even if they can’t speak a word. Music gets into our brains in a way that language learning doesn’t, and when we hear that song we are, to borrow a phrase from Bob Dylan (which another of the groups sang), forever young. It is a beautiful wish, endlessly covered and recovered. Watching those kids on stage, I recalled being on the cusp of adulthood myself. Everything seemed possible then. Then a world that others constructed imposed its constraints on me. My hair began to grow gray even as the leaves lit up yellow and scarlet and fire orange.


Religion is the business of those who are old. Even as a religion major in college I was classed among those old before my time. We think of the hereafter on our deathbeds, not when we’re twenty. For those who teach their children to ponder eternity at a young age, however, that portal is never far from view. My fellow students were looking ahead to careers in all kinds of fields that would make their fortunes and reputations. My modest attempt to bring a younger generation to a more mature outlook faltered at the hands of Fundamentalists, and it was music that helped me through that terrible shock. Little do we think that that song we like so much is marking us indelibly as a child of our age. Time will not relent. We will be the ones, like the trees, showing our signs of age as our children show us where the future lies. And the attitude of that song from 1987 will be, for any who truly listen, forever young.

2 responses to “Autumn Music

  1. jeremiahandrews

    Hey there. In 1987, I was twenty years old. But even then, my record collection went as far back as the 1960’s ( read:Cher,the Jackson 5, Mommas and the Papas). Music is something unique I believe, if you are musically inclined. (I studied music for 13 years) and I thrived on music on vinyl, 8 track (shudders), cassette, up through my digital music files on my phone. It is true that memories attach themselves to particular songs, and even thirty years later, when my short term memory fails me today, If I put on a particular piece of music, the words are right in front of me, even if I haven’t listened to that particular piece of music for ages. It amazes me that on my phone I have upwards of 8 gigs of music spanning my entire life time, ready to go at the print of a finger on my screen. Here where I live, (Montreal) music therapy is a huge market. For people in recovery, for patients with Alzheimer’s, the elderly in care facilities and even on our university campuses.

    I work with some young men who play music professionally here in the city, and they teach free music lessons to men and women who are getting up there and need something to fill some time and to include them in life, instead of being alone all the time.

    As for Religion, those of us with credentials and histories with education and teaching, who use what they have inside their heads can still participate in the discussion of the day. It balances out all the quacks who think they have the market on God, Religion, and Faith. I choose my battles wisely these days, and I know when to keep my mouth shut. I think that there is still room for us to participate in our own ways, even if the institution has turned their backs on us.

    Nobody can take away what we know. We spent good money filling our brains and doing something with it. As long as you remember that knowledge is power, some think that they are all powerful when it comes to all things religious, that they have all the knowledge needed. But what they lack is wisdom to do it right. And those of us who spent years, decades and more learning now have wisdom in hindsight, and that is a very good thing.



    • Many thanks, Jeremy!

      It always does me good to find someone who shares my perspective. I do believe in things like music and learning, although the former feels pretty personal to me. I’ve never been one to reveal too much about my musical tastes, since it says so much about me.

      And the years I spent in school were among the best in my life. I continue my education in my own way, but so many other concerns have crowded in along with it that it is difficult to remember sometimes.

      Thanks for your comments!


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