Henry Rollins: Getting Older Doesn't Have to Mean Going Down With the Ship
[Look for your weekly fix from the one and only Henry Rollins right here on West Coast Sound every Thursday, and come back tomorrow for the awesomely annotated playlist for his Saturday KCRW broadcast.]
Spring is upon us. Youth, chance and motion come to mind. There is a limbering up of the muscles, freshly awoken from cold inactivity. There is a yawn, a clearing of the head as if a coma is being emerged from, a burst of enthusiastic anticipation as to what will be. Perhaps naïve but nonetheless, a feeling that things could be different this time around.
It is in spring that the year's resolutions should be conceived. Why would you attempt to adhere to any challenging discipline when it's too cold to get out of bed in the morning? Early spring is the time for vigorous change, a preparation for the heat-driven oppression that is to come. Soon, the creek near my house will be alive with the sounds of frogs, the nights will become living, breathing things.
"Do the next thing," Monsignor Darcy says to Amory Blaine in F Scott Fitzgerald's first novel, This Side of Paradise, after young Amory asks for advice about his restlessness. Fitzgerald worked on this book nearly a century ago, as a soldier stationed at Fort Leavenworth in Kansas during WWI. He wrote quickly, not thinking he was going to survive. The war ended before he was deployed. I think of Fitzgerald writing with grim diligence as he pondered how short his life might be. What the monsignor said is something I live by.
I spend a great deal of my time angry. I cultivate, refine and maintain it as best I can. Yet in spring, my abundant anger is augmented with a wild, exuberant excitement that only makes me more demanding of myself. Spring is a season of fury for me. Up earlier, longer workouts, more writing, reading, thinking, more consequence. What oversized chunk of something I am unqualified to perform can I tear off and throw myself into? There is only one way to find out.
In spring I am filled with courage. I want to disappear into Rimbaudian one-way voyages to Southeastern Africa. Celinesque journeys into the darkest liquid nights. In winter, I plot and plan. In spring, I move. I fear failure but acknowledge that it's part of life's rich pageant. Spring brings my most profound fear to the fore: not changing. Not knowing when it's time to go, or even worse, not being able to leave when it's over. That's death to me.
It was much easier when I was younger. With age, life becomes complex and difficult, often fraught with risk on several levels, from the practical to the fiscal. With the stability one seeks to establish and maintain, one also can construct a prison that is almost narcotic in its comfort. Nice house -- nice box to do time in.