Robert Greenberg

Historian, Composer, Pianist, Speaker, Author

Dr. Bob Prescribes: Woodstock: 3 Days of Peace and Music

Indulge me, please, the musings of a 68-year-old baby boomer.

Comic: “You're talking to your wallet again!”

Aging sucks.

Like you needed me to tell you, right?

I’m not just talking about our knees, shoulders, fingers, hairlines and waistlines; sagging, spotted skin; sore hips, fatty livers, and forgetfulness; and the terrible knowledge that our physical discomfort notwithstanding, our time on this earth is dwindling.

Neither am I just talking about the psychic damage of getting older, in particular loss: of seeing friends, family, and spouses pass, or heaven forbid, children and grandchildren predecease us. There are times when I do wonder how we “elderly” (legally defined as someone 65 years and older) manage to simply cope with accumulated grief.

Now, we tell ourselves – rightly, I think – that in exchange for our losses and increasingly irksome bodies and memories, our life experience gifts us with wisdom. We come to realize that nothing is simple; that nothing is black and white; that good and evil are relative concepts; that nothing is forever and all we can really count on is change. Unfortunately, it is my experience that this “wisdom” often verges into pessimism because with wisdom – with knowledge and experience – comes a certain and unavoidable degree of cynicism, as we come to recognize the cosmic folly that is this thing we call “life.”

Or so it seems to me.

Am I depressing you? My apologies.

Writes the Nobel Prize-winning author Olga Tokarczuk in The Books of Jacob:

“In some sense, life is constant loss. Improving one’s station, getting richer, is the greatest illusion. In reality, we are richest at the moment of our births; after which, we begin to lose everything.”

Woodstock Festival, Day 2, July 16, 1969: what a crowd of over 450,000 people looks like
Woodstock Festival, Day 2, July 16, 1969: what a crowd of over 450,000 people looks like

(That’s a quote that the denizens of the Woodstock Festival would have called “a downer, man, like, a total drag.”)

And now I’m depressing myself.

And therein lies the problem with our hard-earned “wisdom.” It is all-too-easy for us “elderly” to write-off as juvenile the spectacular idealism, optimism, and sheer, joyful enthusiasm of people 15, 18, 20, or even 25 years old.  Just so, from our present-day vantage point, some 50-plus years later, the youth movement of the 1960s might appear (particularly for those of us who were part of it) to have been nothing but a spectacularly naive exercise in utopian self-indulgence.

But it was not and watching Woodstock would remind us of how special was that generation and the music that mirrored and motivated it.…

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