He sits in a smoke-filled lounge. His feet are propped up on a dingy red cloth chair next to him. The scene is in black and white, a dim lit bar filling even more with the cigarette he’s smoking with intention, his left eye squinting through the smoke as he exhales.
He looks to be deep in thought as he exhales another large plume of smoke in front of the dim, single bar light behind him. The scene cuts to him singing on the stage of that bar, his original band behind him. They were back. They were older, but they were doing it, defying the odds, bucking Father time.
It was 1983, they were The Animals, he was Eric Burdon, the new song was The Night. It had been almost 20 years since they released their self-titled album with their best known song, The House Of The Rising Sun, which went to the top of the charts in almost every English speaking country in the world.
In ’83 I was rooting for them. I can’t help but root for the underdog. In a changing world, they were trying, persevering. What’s not to root for?
In hindsight I can admit I like the music, still do. What I liked the most is that Father time hadn’t completely passed them by, I knew they were fighting a losing battle. The inevitable hadn’t swallowed them yet, though I knew they were close to their final curtain.
What made me pull for them beyond just music? I grew up watching Muhammed Ali box on TV with my dad. We eventually became fans of his and rooted for him to win regardless of whom he was fighting. As newcomers came along and he got older, we pulled for him even more.
Ali was defying time and tradition as he continued to fight and usually win. We could see him losing speed, stamina, and will power, but we continued to root against the odds. The last fight Ali fought was a sad memorial for me. Larry Holmes hit the legend at will. I wished for a glimpse of brilliance, a flash of a younger version of himself.
I kept thinking Ali might have something left in his tank… He didn’t. His tank appeared to be empty of everything, including his pride. The ending of that fight represented an ending of an era… Why did it affect me so deeply?
Change is inevitable. Even Dick Clark got old… As a youngster I grasped that nothing lasts forever. It might be one of the few things I listened to what my elders said and grasped.
To see Eric Burdon and The Animals still hitting the charts meant that special time in my life that represented a piece of my childhood was still alive. When Ali could no longer defend himself meant that a chapter of my life was over as well.
We all have milestones and markers we measure and relate with our own lives. The reality that Superman gets old, Joe Dimaggio couldn’t live forever, and our loved ones are mortal, tells us we too are subject to the same laws of nature.
“To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the sun. A time to be born, and a time to die. A time to plant, a time to reap that which is planted. A time to kill, a time to heal, a time to break down, and a time to build up. A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance.”
This portion of Ecclesiastes written by King Solomon reminds us there is a time for all things in our lives. I’ve tried to stretch out some of those times in my life, but just as God’s word makes clear, nothing on this earth lasts forever.
The only constant in this world is the Hand that sustains it, and even that time has a season according to Him. For each season God has determined the number of sunrises and sunsets that will make up each one for all of us.
I think God makes clear our job is to acknowledge His sovereignty in each season and give thanks for the seemingly little things in life.
A sunrise, a sunset, and the hours that fall between…