I had a few spare minutes to myself on a pleasant Sunday evening in April (yes, miracles DO happen) so, on a lark, I took a walk down the Old Town Mall here in Winchester. I thought I’d bring my iPod and look like a hip thinker amongst fellow strollers who couldn’t have cared less about what I looked like.
After soaking up some small town ambience, I sat down on a bench near the courthouse and dialed up a 70s favorite of mine, “Living in the Past” by Jethro Tull. Mired in the haunting beauty of Ian Anderson’s flute against a Latin-tinged 5/4 pulse were these lyrics:
Once I used to join in
Every boy and girl was my friend
Now, there`s revolution
But they don`t know
What they`re fighting
Let us close our eyes
Outside their lives
Go on much faster
Oh, we won`t give in
We`ll keep living in the past
That first stanza encapsulated a fundamental flaw we face as we age. We grow older, but not necessarily wiser. Wisdom born of pain isn’t my path of choice as it pertains to gaining smarts. But what happened to taking risks? What happened to trust and innocence? We play it too safe these days, to the detriment of our sense of personal significance. Growing older, but not, well, growing. Too scared to learn the hard way one more time. We hide in the supposed truth of “if I knew then what I know now”, forgetting the fact that we educated ourselves by taking chances, and occasionally blowing it sky-high. But, dag, did we learn!
Just moments before, my eye had caught sight of a disheveled middle-aged man with a winter hat and excessively clad for the weather – smoking, contemplative, perhaps sad. My first instinct was to casually approach him and possibly engage him in a conversation that would eventually direct our dialog to Christ. Twenty years ago (when I was, I guess, young and foolish), that would have been a no-brainer – the guy would have heard the name of Jesus, whether or not the rest of our short discussion involved Him or not. Suddenly, “safety first” kicked in – suddenly, “what ifs” abounded like pigeons around discarded sandwich scraps. He’ll get turned off if I drag religion into it. He could be one of those weirdoes we see on cable news. Maybe he’ll pull a knife on me, or spray me with mace. Completely unfounded fears, disguised as common sense or street savvy.
Anderson pines, “Now there’s revolution, but they don’t know what they’re fighting.” Forty-somethings like me spend more time defending our turf than discovering new promised lands. Lost people aren’t worth the bother – after all, I could get hurt. May the only struggle I encounter be the ongoing effort to preserve whatever lifetime I have left.