A funny thing about aging is that you recollect your youth, but you find yourself less able to do the things that seemed so easy when you were more spry. We live in a world where the elderly are coming to outnumber the young, and that means a lot of memories of “the time when.” This thought confronted me when reading a story about two missing patients from a nursing home in Germany. Authorities were frantic to find them until they were spotted at Wacken Open Air, the largest heavy metal fest in the world. The news stories seemed bemused—it was cute, in a way, wasn’t it? Two old guys trying to recapture their youth, like salmon swimming upstream where they were born. I’ve got to wonder if there’s more to it than that.
Music has a way of touching us deeply. While I prefer my rock on the harder side, I’m not exactly a metal-head. There’s something, however, in the rage of metal that resonates with some of us when we get older. It’s almost religious. You see, I recall hearing the music from my brother’s room when I was growing up. As a naive fundamentalist, I sometimes went downstairs shaken, as if my virginal soul had seen some image it shouldn’t have. Some teens reach a level of maturity before others, and metal speaks to them. Let’s face it—life is unfair. We see that every single day. Music can help us cope with such unfairness and there are times when John Denver and James Taylor seem downright gullible. Ask the elderly.
Our society harbors many myths. One of them is that evolution doesn’t occur. Not only is it a biological fact among species, but it’s also, on a macro-level, something that happens as we age. Perspectives shift. We come to see the wisdom of Heraclitus—no one steps into the same river twice. Especially when it’s Styx. Technology keeps us alive longer now, and sometimes it seems that it does so just to tell us what we can no longer do. I’ve got, I hope, a number of miles left on the odometer, but my focus is on the car’s stereo system. When driving to Wacken Open Air to pick up two men trying to plug into either the rage or the euphoria that heavy metal means to the elderly what comes through your speakers? What would the “sweet Psalmist of Israel” have wanted to hear when not even Abishag could keep him warm? Yes, Herman, there is a wisdom that is woe. And banging your head may not be the worst option at such times as these.