I watched Super Bowl XL more for the half-time entertainment than for the game itself, which was a snoozer. There was some grumbling among Motown fans that a British band -- in this case, the Rolling Stones -- should be the headliner at a Super Bowl in Detroit. Of course, most Motown acts have long since disappeared onto the oldies circuit, but not the Stones. Now that Dick Clark had finally shown signs of age, Mick Jagger had emerged as the reigning apostle of perpetual adolescence. Jagger was strutting about with his usual manic energy at halftime, an impressive feat for a 25-year-old, never mind someone who was then 62. And yet there was something more than faintly ridiculous about a grandpa lamenting that he can't get no satisfaction. Even Jagger obliquely acknowledged as much when he wisecracked that the Stones could have sung the same tune at Super Bowl I.
The Rolling Stones' lead singer, who once said he would rather be dead than singing "Satisfaction" at age 45, had discovered both he and the song are far more durable than anyone might have imagined back in the days when music was still pressed on vinyl. "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction" remains a perfect anthem of the self. The self, after all, is basically defined by its need, which is bottomless. To achieve satisfaction, however fleetingly, is merely to set the stage for some new craving that engenders yet more dissatisfaction. The cycle is never-ending, because the self knows -- or at least senses --that it can't truly find fulfillment without threatening the foundation of its own existence.
Mick Jagger has achieved his own peculiar sort of renown, verging on self-parody, in endlessly recycling the hormonal urges of his adolescent self. Most of us settle into more adult forms of discontent, while harboring the dwindling hope that we will one day fulfill our remaining desires or at least outlive them. Yet there was Ben Franklin in his eighties, still nursing his gout, still flirting with the ladies, still pursued by ambition. It seems there is always another itch to be scratched. Where did we get the idea that we will ever find relief? The self is all itch and merely grows stronger with all our scratching.