Friday, April 25, 2014

The Ancient "Die Young" Ideal

Translated from Russian by me.

- How did you change with age? Would you say that, in your younger years, you were "better, purer" than now?

-No, I couldn't say that. I did not change. I understand better what it is that I want and I understand better how to prevail. But that which I want is unreachable. It is perfection. It is an old dictum, "live fast, die young." Vintage Rock 'n' Roll. To die young doesn't mean to die in your youth. You can die young being ninety eight years old. Agedness is when a person loses interest in life - a symptom of upbringing. A person must be wise but not old.

From an interview with a Russian musician and songwriter Boris Grebenshikov aka B.G. 


- Вы как-то изменились с возрастом? Вы могли бы сказать, что раньше были "лучше, чище"?

- Нет, не мог бы. Я не изменился. Я лучше понимаю, чего я хочу, и лучше знаю, как этого добиться. Но то, чего я хочу, так же недостижимо. Это – совершенство. Есть старинный принцип: "Жить быстро, умереть молодым". Рок-н-ролльный такой. Умереть молодым не значит - умереть в раннем возрасте. Можно умереть молодым в девяносто восемь лет. Старость – это когда человек теряет интерес к жизни, замыливание восприятия. Человек должен быть мудрым, но не старым.


  1. If only one could control this fate (losing interest in life) with their personal force of will...

    1. I think you can to an extent. I can't control my mood, and I don't like human existence in on itself but that is different from retaining a certain open minded, fresh outlook on life instead of being defined by a sense of narrowness and routine that many fall into with age.

    2. I think you have "died young" when you realize you are never going to be a rock star or president or whatever it is you wanted. Few people want to attain perfect enlightenment, but in my generation there was no shortage of boys who wanted to be Jimmy Page. A lot of the sparkle goes out of life when the road no longer unrolls before you with endless possibility and the promise of new experiences, or when you go on vacation to someplace you have never been and always wanted to go and finish your visit thinking, "That was a gyp; overcommercialized smiley-face bullshitters just after my money".

    3. I have the same perspectives on holidays. Each holiday feels like another marketing campaign. Buy slutty nurse costumes on halloween and coca cola with Santa on Christmas, all the store decorations, all the slogans, all the sales with people fighting over discounted televisions. Every moment of holiday "magic" seems engineered to get you to buy something. I don't rail against capitalism, its an economic system that makes sense to me but when it so boldly tries to effect your mood and define the culture for profits I get nauseated.

      As for life, for me -even when I am depressed- it always holds a certain mystery, a sense of even possibility even. Then again, as I aged I realize that its not in my constitution to give up on grandiose ambitions. I can't function without them humming in the background. In the past, I was young and could daydream about them without doing anything in the real world. Now as I am pushing thirty this escapism is no longer an option I need to figure something out. Pragmatic assimilation into a quiet middle class existence is impossible for me. In that sense, whenever I die I am likely to be "young."

    4. > I realize that its not in my constitution to give up on grandiose ambitions.

      Ivan, you often perfectly exhibit the essence of being American. This fits nicely with my expectations of most immigrants. It is the comfortable (natural born) Americans that may find it easier to 'get old', as they lack the contrast of how bad things can really be. Adversity is what creates the friction necessary to wish to do great things. Without it, we all get comfortable and old, wondering exactly what it is we were put onto this planet for.

      > A lot of the sparkle goes out of life when the road no longer unrolls before you with endless possibility

      Mark summarized an interesting corollary here. With great ambition comes the risk of discovering you are not capable of achieving it. That is a dangerous place to be.