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    The Core

    By Rudy Lemcke–

    The other day I was talking to a friend about a song I had heard by the band Radiohead called “Glass Eyes.” The song ends with the lyrics:

                    “And the path trails off
                    And heads down a mountain
                    Through the dry bush, I don’t know where it leads
                    I don’t really care

                    I feel this love to the core
                    I feel this love to the core”

    I said to my friend, “How could someone write a piece of music that sounds this beautiful? I don’t think I’ve ever listened to music the way I do now.” And my friend replied, “My father was like that when he got older, too.”

    Rudy Lemcke

    This exchange makes me reflect on my aging self and about the changes I’ve been going through as I have grown older. 

    Now in my early 70s and coping with the physical changes one experiences as we age, I know I won’t be climbing any mountains or running a marathon, but I’ve found a new sense of contentment with my place in the world and satisfaction with my life that I believe is more important. As I’ve grown older, I’ve found that the question of identity has shifted and returned to its earlier fluidity.

    Success no longer means the same thing to me as it did in my youth, and I’ve come to appreciate the perspective that age has brought me. I’ve learned who I am and what I’ve accomplished, and my priorities have shifted accordingly. My values have become more clearly defined, and I’ve found greater peace with myself than I ever did by striving to achieve what my younger self deemed important. As the reality of my own mortality grows closer and I experience the profound loss of loved ones, I find that the importance of living life fully comes into sharper focus. This newfound clarity has brought a sense of fulfillment and meaning to my life that I never could have imagined in my youth. Even as new physical limitations arise, the ability to cope with these changes comes from a center that is not physical.

    What is it exactly that opened me up to growing older, allowing me to “feel this love to the core” as the song goes? I think it is the discovery of the secret meaning of our individual lives—or at least mine. It’s no huge lightning bolt revelation but rather a quiet understanding of the path in life I took and how I came to be here in this place and time. I can see the long trajectory of my life choices that have led to this inevitable moment. Some regrets, maybe, yes. But I am better equipped to acknowledge the path I took—and continue on—and am able to make a certain peace with the histories that I can’t change or rewrite.

    At the center of it all is a collection of memories and reasons, like old letters in a shoebox. Each one holds a story, a connection, and a choice that has brought me to this point. As I reflect on these letters, I find beauty in the uniqueness of my journey, and the deep connections and love that are among my most cherished memories. It is here I find and “feel the love to the core” and the place from which I draw strength.

    As a visual artist, my sense of self, my center, has always been intertwined with my artistic expression. My life choices and experiences have shaped me into who I am today. Recently, during the COVID-19 pandemic, I created an art exhibition at the Institute for Contemporary Art in San José titled The Transit of Venus, where my intention is to express our zeitgeist (the spirit of our time). The piece draws inspiration from early Modernists who were navigating the rapid changes brought on by industrialization and urbanization a century ago, and I draw parallels to our current time of rapid technological change and globalism.

    The central image of the piece is a tightrope walker, symbolizing our precarious lives as we strive to stay balanced amidst the dizzying chaos of it all. Through my art, I aim to capture the unease and vertigo of this era and convey the emotions that we are all experiencing as we face these feelings.

    The artwork resonates with the theme of aging, as it explores the challenge of navigating a transformation that is beyond our physical control—dancing on a tightrope between the earth and sky, the past and future. It’s a reminder that we have a choice in how we approach life, whether to choose joy over fear and actively shape our own narratives instead of simply accepting what fate hands us.

    To paraphrase the Austrian psychiatrist, Victor Frankl, who was sent to various concentration camps by the Nazis, including Auschwitz: to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way, is the last of the human freedoms.Thinkers and artists in the era of the rise of European fascism have always had a profound meaning for me as they experienced firsthand the violence and trauma that the world is capable of bringing forth.

    Echoes of this era of hate and the rise of authoritarianism haunt my thoughts as I look at today’s news and write these words.To think, to act, to consider one’s part, to choose one’s way, to choose life is what Frankl thought was at the heart of our humanity. It is precisely our liberation and freedom in the choices that we make (and have made) where we find our meaning—our core. This most certainly becomes clearer and more valuable with age.

    Rudy Lemcke is a multidisciplinary artist and curator who lives and works in San Francisco. He holds a degree in philosophy from the University of Louvain, Belgium, and a degree in web design and technology from the San Francisco State Multimedia Studies Program. His artwork has been exhibited at the Whitney Museum of American Art, the de Young Museum, the Pacific Film Archive/University Art Museum in Berkeley, the San Francisco Art Institute/Bass Museum of Art in Miami Beach, The Contemporary Arts Center in New Orleans, the Musée d’Art Contemporain in Montreal, and more.

    Special Section Aging in Community by Dr. Marcy Adelman
    Published on May 4, 2023