A couple of years ago, I was having a real good time.
“I thought I knew what love was, but…these lovers play new music; haunting me and somehow taunting me. My love was never half as true.” – Ragtime.
I invented love.
That probably comes as a surprise to you, but it’s true.
It happened sometime in the early 1970s – I don’t remember the precise moment, which is odd considering the importance of the event. Oh yes, I am fully aware that love has been written of by poets for hundreds of years before that. I myself have performed and recited and sung words of love written by Shakespeare, Cole Porter, and Harry Lauder that were written long before I was born. All I can say is there are far more prophets in the world than talk radio would lead us to believe.
Yes, I invented love.
I invented it a few years before I invented sex.
I could make a big deal out of it. In a Trumpian mood I could say it was “huge”. Channeling my inner Al Gore I could aver that the movie “Love Story” was written about me. But why? I don’t need it. The glory, the satisfaction, the thrill of knowing that no one else had truly known love before I invented it is enough.
How does Bob Dylan say it? “I was so much older then, I’m younger than that now.”
I had a tiny role in a production of Ragtime. It required me to immerse myself every evening for six weeks in a room full of 40 to 50 impossibly young dancers and singers who insisted upon calling me “Mister” and “Sir”.
I hated them.
I loved them.
I could not have been more pleased with my companions.
There are moments in Ragtime precisely……painfully about knowing that you are old enough and successful enough and still able to grow and experience new things if only you will allow yourself to do so.
At the age of 21 I knew the full glory of what love could be. How could I not? I invented love.
In my 60’s, I’m just beginning to get a glimpse of what the full glory of love can be. That glimpse doesn’t denigrate or belittle the loves and passions of the past. It reveals and exalts the fact that we can grow at any age if we allow ourselves to do so. It validates the idea that we can move toward something better and that something better may not be so far away. It may be as near as lyricist Billy Rose says; “back in your own backyard”.
In Ragtime (America of 1906) characters are confronted with the disturbing possibility that (as the Firesign Theater puts it) everything you know is wrong – or at least could be better and bigger. How do these Ragtime characters react? That’s the whole story.
On CNN/Fox/MNBC (America of 2016) we are confronted with the disturbing possibility that everything we know is wrong. Can we be better and bigger? How do we react? That’s the whole story.
How did the writers of Ragtime know that we would need their guidance at this time?
There are far more prophets in the world than talk radio would lead us to believe.
Maybe we can invent a love twice as true as we believed possible. To do so we would have to first accept the tantalizing promise of “new music” in the energetic form of impossibly young people who insist on calling us “Mister” and “Sir”.
I’m good with that.