I’ve been caught in a vicious debate within my self for many years. On the one hand, I try desperately to gain credibility within the world of knowledge but on the other, I want to remain true to the people who work this land and make the world go around.
Neil Young’s song Old Man plays directly into this internal debate and reassures me that I’m not the only one in this struggle. Trying to convince the old ranch tender that though he has gained this first credibility does not take him away from the second is captured in 3:25.
Neil Young has of course won many awards and is praised as one the best musicians ever. Yet, this old man didn’t care about his music and his foreign ways, he was a man of the land who didn’t want to see this city boy come and change the way is world spun round. Neil needed desperately to convince the man that though the differences that separate them: city/country, young/old, they share common bonds of humanity. “I’m a lot like you”. When confronted with a new person that we want to impress, we immediately attempt to establish links and Neil, despite his influence and importance, does like any other human.
Over the past years, I’ve continuously attempted to gain as much academic knowledge as possible, to consider theoretical responses to real life situations and to play the game that society wants where a university education is considered the minimum for this job and that. At the same time, the people I respect most are people who work hard, day in, day out, by using their hands and their strength. That is work I could never do: it requires energy, precision, patience and the ability to keep working no matter what. I want to show them that despite this university education where my pen and computer are the tools of the trade, I can relate to the work that they do and the people they are.
Neil wanted the approval of the old man because he thought it was important to feel accepted in this new part of the world in which he was getting himself involved. He wanted his world and that of the old man to join together or, at the very least to be in that world. He wanted to bring the old man back to his youth, when he felt the same possibilities in this world. He wanted to share the common desire for love that binds humanity together and that provides the only link between all of us. “I’m a lot like you were”, he says. I want now, the same things you wanted then.
If Neil Young could say that to that old man, I would like to tell Neil now that “I’m a lot like you were”. I may not yet be 24, but I soon will be. Then, perhaps I’ll be buying my own ranch beside Neil’s and telling him those same words. In the future, it is likely that I will meet with people who doubt my credibility. Perhaps Neil’s words of comfort can remind these doubters of their younger days and give me some of the credibility I seek. If Neil Young needed credibility, I need a lot more.