Professionally young in Cloud Koo Koo Land March 31, 2009

A long time ago, in the primordial soup that was my youth, I played a character in THE BIRDS, authored by Aristophanes and translated from the original Greek by a classmate of mine, Jeff La Count, who had a mastery of ancient languages even in high school. He created a simple and wonderful adaptation of Aristophanes’ play.

The first line of the play, which I spoke as the character of Euelpides, was: here we are, ready and willing to go to the birds – and we can’t even find the way! He and his comrade, Pisthetairos, were looking for “the birds.” If they could find the mythical kingdom of the Birds all rules of life could be overturned. Ultimately finding The Birds, they created a place called Cloud-koo-koo-land, where all the normal rules were abrogated and new ones created, ultimately upending the reign of the Gods.

Interpreted in the 20th Century it could have been a Laurel and Hardy vehicle.

I am thinking of this because we are in the process of finding our way out of our own Cloud-koo-koo-land. Just as we the country responded to the horror of World War I with the party called the Roaring ‘20’s, we responded to 9/11 with the irrational exuberance of the last years. We took all the normal rules of finance and abrogated them with new ones that made no sense and ultimately that brought us down. Cloud-koo-koo-land can’t last forever…

This train of thought was reinforced standing in line for a newspaper while surrounded by the magazines that feed off our addiction to celebrity. There are such a staggering number that in many newsstands it is almost impossible to find a news magazine; they’ve been relegated to the back rows. One “Special Issue” magazine recently was a paean to celebrity beauty, a detailed scrutiny of the evolution of physical charms among male and female celebrities. More than one nose looked rather different between now and then. Standing there, looking at this catalog of physical charms, it crossed my mind that most of these people are practicing the art of being professionally young, a quality that has been ascribed to our nation, another aspect of the Cloud-koo-koo-land we have been inhabiting.

We are a country that has been playing perpetually youthful, as we have been moving into our middle age. Youth and youthfulness are attributes we have ascribed to ourselves; it has been our trademark since our founding. Young, brash, overcoming all odds, rising to the occasion, winning World Wars, first to the moon, leading the world in our productivity and our enthusiasm, populated by youthful, exuberant individuals who can defy age and time.

May be relentless youthfulness is not the best thing we have to offer anymore. Perhaps we gained some wisdom in our youth and can call upon that now as we work to take our place in this new, strange world in which we find ourselves – the world of The Great Recession, insurgencies, wars, travails and troubles.

Perhaps the thing to do now is to acknowledge we’re getting a bit longer in the tooth and that all the energy used to stay professionally young might better be spent in just being professional. We have had a grand party but perhaps now it’s time to do the Twelve Step meeting thing and figure out how to live in sobriety.

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2 Responses to “Professionally young in Cloud Koo Koo Land March 31, 2009”

  1. docuguy Says:

    Interesting post, Mat. The “news” about celebrities certainly has taken over on the newsstand and on the tube. I wonder what people are getting out of it? Do people want to feel connected to the glamor and youth and live off that?

  2. tombers Says:

    i think you’re right – want to live vicariously…

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