About two months ago, I started listening to classical music. It was not a conscious decision, in that I said to myself “Self, you need to listen to classical music and improve yourself.” It more of an “I can’t find anything decent to listen to on [a whole bunch of Sirius Stations]. Let me try the classical channel.”
Now, I did not know that much about classical music. I knew the basics (e.g., the Three Bs), and knew that I had long ago listened to Dvorak’s Ninth Symphony and enjoyed it. Oh, and Handel’s Messiah. So I tuned to “Symphony Hall” with no great expectation that I would enjoy what I heard. I was quite surprised that not only did I like the music; I was listening to it more closely than I did the rock stations. I now regularly listen to both “Symphony Hall” and “SiriusXM Pops”, as well as the local classical radio station (WDAV). I have also started listening more to what SiriusXM calls the “Sinatra” channel.
So, am I putting on airs? I do not think so. I think I am experiencing on a small, personal scale what Tom Wolfe called a “Great Relearning”. I am finding out that maybe, just maybe, some of the old things and old ways really were better. Certainly not everything older was better. But maybe my Dad knew something when he told us that Sinatra, Tommy Dorsey, Glenn Miller, and other artists of that era made some terrific music that would outlast the pop and rock we kids were listening to. He was no classical music aficionado, but he could appreciate a good symphony or concerto.
Another small example or two might help clarify what I am groping at. I head Dennis Prager on a podcast I listen to each week. He was talking about classical music, and one of the hosts said something like “you sound like a man who writes with a fountain pen.” Now when I was younger (and I mean around 4th or 5th grade), I used a cheap fountain pen. (I think it was a Schaeffer.) Whether out of enjoyment or affectation I can’t remember now, and it probably does not matter. I do know that the comment piqued my interest and I did what any one would do nowadays: I Googled “fountain pen.” I found a variety of sites proving that interest in this has not faded; indeed, it appears that many people still use fountain pens regularly. I found out that there is even a disposable fountain pen. I picked up a couple of them, and I enjoy using them for taking notes at work, writing in my journal (which I have also re-started), etc. I am also learning about better stationary, notebooks, and so on.
One site that popped up was “The Art of Manliness”. I checked it out (it was there that I learned about the disposable fountain pen). I wasn’t sure if the site was meant to be ironic, or if it was intended to provoke discussion and recovery of “manly” skills and virtues. One article concerned “How to Shave Like Your Grandfather”. It discussed the benefits of traditional shaving techniques and tools over those used today. For example, a double-edged safety razor actually provides a better, more comfortable shave for far less money than the four or five bladed cartridges most men use. This is especially true if one prepares the beard in the correct way: use hot water and a good shaving brush and shaving soap to really help the blade glide over the skin. As luck would have it, I had a particularly painful shave that day (it probably didn’t help that the Fusion cartridge I was using was on its fourth week of service, but at $17 for four cartridges, I push them as long as I can take it). I started looking into what some call “wet shaving”, and I decided to try it out. I bought an inexpensive (not cheap!) brush and some traditional shaving cream. So far, it has made my shaving more comfortable and pleasurable. I plan to get a safety razor and see how that works. I suspect that it will work just fine.
Now, my father used a safety razor. But when I started shaving, there was no way I was going to use that “old geezer stuff”. Nope, it was Trac II, etc., for me! I did like Old Spice and English Leather though (still do). Again, he knew something we didn’t, and I have to re-learn it now.
And I think that’s my point: newer isn’t necessarily better. The old ways have value. I have lost that somehow in the rush of modern life, chasing the new and “exciting”. My dad has not been with us for over 30 years, but I know he’ll smile when I say “Dad, I am sorry. You were right!”