IVP - Strangely Dim - Old Friends

May 3, 2005

Old Friends

I'm getting old. I can see it and even feel it--the grey nose hairs, the popping joints and the intermittent back spasms. But more than the physical indicators that I'm getting old, I'm getting signals that I'm getting old from all the young people around me. I've very nearly reached the age of irrelevance.

You may think me inordinately morose--a coworker of mine told me I have plenty of good years ahead of me--but demographically speaking, turning thirty is tantamount to a kiss of death. You switch from MTV to VH1, and you're well on your way to NPR. You switch from Sunny D to V8, and Metamucil is starting to sound sensible.

For those of us who try to stay hip, we find that twenty-somethings look at us funny every time we name-drop: "Hey, have you heard that new Coldplay song?" And just in case you're not conscious of this shift, you get all kinds of reminders from the annoyingly young. Joan Girardi, the title character of the TV show Joan of Arcadia, took a cold shot while lamenting her own aging process: "I'm seventeen years old--that's half the age of a really old person."

For all you math fans out there, here's what the equation looks like:

17 x 2 = Really Old Person
17 x 2 = 34
Dave = 34
Dave = Really Old Person

I'm comforted by the knowledge that I'm not alone in feeling old. Liz Phair, who was hip way back in 1991 and continues to be one of those names I occasionally drop, is feeling her age a bit. She wrote a song about being in her thirties and dating a college boy. One line spells it out in large print: "Your record collection don't exist / You don't even know who Liz Phair is."

I'm also comforted by the fact that although I'm ancient in the eyes of the young, in the mind of America's founding fathers I'm very nearly the age at which I can be trusted to run the country. For you math fans out there, here's another equation to play around with:

17 x 2 = Really Old Person
Really Old Person +1 = 35
35 < Absolute Political Power

So, although I have virtually no chance of actually being elected president, I am now only two months away from having at least potential access to absolute political power. Stick that in your pipe and smoke it, Joan Girardi.

Lately, though, what's comforted me more than anything is the relatively new presence in my life of old friends. Until last year, I went to a church that helped people to build relationships by grouping them demographically: married couples were introduced to married couples, retirees were introduced to retirees, and so on. If someone fell outside your principal demographic, they were effectively invisible to you within the confines of the church.

My new church is small enough, though, that it would be silly to group people so narrowly. As a result, I recently spent three months in a discussion group with people who were twice my age. I felt like a student, except that I was treated as an equal. We talked about health and loneliness and family, as I've done with my demographic peers in the past, except that these discussions came from a completely different frame of reference. I found myself with a different outlook: in the past I've dwelled on my youth and consequently I've feared aging; in this group I looked forward and saw people experiencing life in all its fullness, and aging lost a bit of its sting.

Since our group disbanded, one of my old friends was sent to a hospital, and I had my first inkling that I will over time watch many of my loved ones get sick and eventually die--some sooner than others. But the older we get, the more we understand that dying is OK; God uses death to usher his people into a life without tears, fulfilling the vague longing that's followed us throughout life.

This awareness of death eludes the young but regularly tests the faith of the old, and in that respect having old friends is like a spiritual discipline: none of us is immune from death, and the sooner we face up to that the sooner we can make our peace with God and get on with living.


Mark your calendars: Batman Begins hits theaters June 15; Fantastic Four hits theaters July 8. For a guy who's inexplicably enamored with superheroes, it's beginning to look a lot like Christmas . . .

Posted by Dave Zimmerman at May 3, 2005 10:04 AM Bookmark and Share


Let's not forget: 16 days until the Sith gets its revenge... ;)

Comment by: Dan Webster at May 3, 2005 10:32 AM

Man--you Star Wars geeks are so fanatical . . .

Comment by: dave at May 3, 2005 10:34 AM

I'm NOT waiting in line though... my "old" bones and joints can't handle that anymore.

Comment by: Dan Webster at May 3, 2005 10:36 AM

Are you trying to convince us or yourself? It really doesn't matter that you're old... take heart in the fact that at least you're consistent in your gloom and doom about aging. ;)

Comment by: J-Go at May 3, 2005 11:24 AM

Merlin aged backwards; do you suppose he feared getting younger or counted on his young friends to teach him how to de-age gracefully?

Comment by: dave at May 3, 2005 11:29 AM

Dude, young people lack wisdom. They may have knowledge but knowledge needs to be tempered by wisdom. Merlin would already know how to de-age gracefully.

Comment by: J-Go at May 3, 2005 11:41 AM

Oh, I don't know. I've known some peculiarly wise young people, and old people aren't wise simply by virtue of being old; I've known some pretty foolish old people along the way.

Don't ask me to name any of them, though.

Comment by: dave at May 3, 2005 11:49 AM

You're right and I concur. I guess ideally people would gain wisdom as they journey towards the grave. It sounds like you're well on your way... in terms of wisdom, that is.

Comment by: J-Go at May 3, 2005 11:57 AM

Guess I am one of the old ones who is becoming wiser with the aging process. If I keep this up, I may attain the knowledge that I have always aspired to own.

Comment by: Mom Z at May 3, 2005 6:10 PM

Ah, Dave. You may be getting older, but you've been a wise guy for years. :)

Comment by: Jor-el at May 4, 2005 4:41 PM


You'll always be young at heart, even when you're a geezer.

Comment by: Drew at May 6, 2005 11:29 AM

Surely Dave, you jest. If thirty-something is old, pray tell what will he fifty-somethings amongst us say? Of course a few gray hairs will come thru, that is if you're lucky and they haven't all fallen out, but creaky joints at your age? Don't be deceived by Hollywood, at 35 you are still a spring chicken, (well, not quite) but there's lots left in you yet.

Comment by: Kubi Momoh at May 16, 2005 7:11 AM

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Behind the Strangeness

Lisa Rieck is a reader and writer who likes to discuss good ideas over hot drinks and gets inspired by the sky. She takes in all kinds of good ideas as a proofreader for InterVarsity Press.

Rebecca Larson is a writer/designer/creative type who has infiltrated IVP's web department, where she writes and edits online content. She enjoys a good pun and loves the smell of freshly printed books.

David A. Zimmerman is an editor for Likewise Books and a columnist for Burnside Writers Collective. He's written three books, most recently The Parable of the Unexpected Guest. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/unexpguest. Find his personal blog at loud-time.com.

Suanne Camfield is a publicist for InterVarsity Press and a freelance writer. She floats ungracefully between work, parenting and writing, and (much to her dismay) finds it impossible to read on a treadmill. She is a member of the Redbud Writers Guild and blogs at The Rough Cut.

Likewise Books from InterVarsity Press explore a thoughtful, active faith lived out in real time in the midst of an emerging culture.

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