You can't teach an old dog new tricks, but you can remind them of tricks they used to do. This is what my wife was doing with our sixteen year old pet and best friend a few days ago. It helped to have some treats as motivation, but it was also a refresher to me: sit up, lay down, stay. I can do all of those. At fifty-one, I've still got the basics down pat.
This doesn't mean I still don't have things that I can learn. While I was out for a run, I heard a new word in the lyrics to a Styx song. The word itself wasn't new. It was new to me: "You see the world through your cynical eyes." Since 1978 I have been singing along, or perhaps more specifically mumbling along, to those opening lines with some sort of nonsense about "You see your life through your city fool's life." The rest of the song was much more intelligible, by comparison. And now, some thirty-five years later, I can finally bust loose as I raise my voice with Tommy Shaw and the rest of the boys from Chicago.
It wasn't much of a lesson, really, but quite a relief for my tired old brain. It reminded me of being a freshman at Colorado College, where I took a course called "The American Renaissance." We were required by our professor to keep a journal, in the manner of Thoreau, Melville and their counterparts. The best part about this assignment was that there was no requirement as to the content. We were encouraged to write whatever came into our heads. Not unlike what you are reading now. In one particular entry, I noted that I had just discovered, late in my nineteenth year, I had stumbled upon the "hidden lyrics" of the old song "Mairzy Doats."I wrote in my journal: "Imagine my surprise to find that they aren't nonsense words at all. They are 'Mares eat oats, and does eat oats, and little lambs eat ivy. A kid'll eat ivy too. Wouldn't you?'" This little scribble became part of a much larger group of scribblings, and at the end of the class, I turned the whole jumble in for assessing. It was a few weeks later, when I stopped by my professor's office to check my grade that I rustled through a pile of spiral bound notebooks to find my own. I was surprised to find that he had not only read them all, but saw fit to comment on many of the entries. Including my mares and does revelation: "My God," he wrote in the margin, "I'm seventy-one years old and this is all news to me."
To this end, I'm currently working on my ability to sing along with "Mississippi Queen." I figure I've got a twenty year jump on my college professor.