For the last few days, I’ve been obsessed with this one song. That’s not strange, by the way, me being obsessed with one song for days at a time. But this one feels different.
I love the music (especially the drums), but it’s the lyrics that won’t leave me alone. This passage, repeated a couple times near the end, is particularly mesmerizing:
Tears in my eyes
Chasing Ponce de Leon’s phantoms
So filled with hope
I can taste mythical fountains
False hope, perhaps
But the truth never got in my way
Before now, feel the sting
Feeling time bearing down
The song is called “Invincible,” and it’s from the band Tool. It appears on their latest album, which is their first studio recording in more than a decade. The song is a damn-near 13 minute epic (on a record filled epics). Musically, it spans the breadth of Tool’s career; lyrically, it spans a lifetime.
“Invincible” is about aging, about the grinding weight of years piling up on our shoulders. It’s the story of a man–a human–summoning the strength to wade into life’s fray, and to do so like they did in days of old. Boasting of youthful accomplishments, trying desperately to hide the signs of time’s ravages, they “lurch” into the fight to claim the spoils they know they’re owed. It’s an elegy, one filled with raging defiance. But it’s also a reckoning.
It’s a reckoning with the inevitability of age, and an admission that we humans will always keep fighting for the crystal waters of youth. Even when those waters are a mirage, we will fight. What else can we do under the crushing sting of time, as we feel it bearing down?
Look, I know I’m not an old man. Not yet. I know I’m still less than half the age to which the average American male can expect to live.
But I’m older than I’ve ever been before. And the days of my youth are, like my hairline, only receding further and further into memory’s fickle embrace.
So, if I’m not old, then what right do I have to be so maudlin over the lyrics to a song about, well, being old? Well, I may not be old. But I know how much of my life I’ve wasted.
My twenties should have been the time for living like this, living like I actually want–like I have a real desire–to be alive. Instead, my twenties were years I spent figuring out ways to avoid life. I would say I spent that decade devising “new and novel” schemes for abdicating my responsibilities as a human. But there’s nothing new or novel about alcoholism, and there was nothing new or novel about the pain I was too busy fleeing/protecting.
I wasted my twenties, and was wasted throughout them. Looking at it from this angle, I can see now that I was always scared of something. Scared of my past, scared of my emotions, scared of trying and failing.
Honestly, I’m still scared. I’m scared shitless. Only now, I’m scared of losing more time. I’m scared of feeling life’s grinding weight just get heavier and heavier, yes, but I’m more scared of what that weight will consist of. Will it be a weight of self-inflicted misery, a metric-fuckton of guilt and recrimination that kills me? Or will it be a weight of full days, a balance of meaningful images that sustains me?
I’ll always keep striving to find my fountain of youth, and I’ll always fight against time’s unceasing pull. And that’s OK. That’s as it should be.
I should be fighting for more time, because now I finally want more time.