02 September 2006

Apparently, I'm Having Too Much Fun

Apparently, I'm having too much fun. Jef Mallet, the Lansing-based cartoonist behind the comic strip Frazz once wrote: "If time flies when you're having fun, it must hit the afterburners when you're not having enough" (Frazz 08.01.05). For those of you who haven't discovered Frazz, it's a bit like one of the greats--Calvin & Hobbes (tied in my mind with the other indisputable classic The Far Side). It's interesting that he wrote this one August 1st of last year.

I was thinking about how much fun I've apparently been having ever since this August 1st when MTV celebrated its 25th anniversary (
this guy has some pretty good insight into whether that is a good thing or not). Twenty-five years! I was eleven when that 1981 debut took place. I remember everyone at Southfield Christian talking about it (None of us actually had it, of course! The illicit quality gave it an even greater appeal). I can still remember the astronaught planting the flag on the moon with the guitars ripping through space (they still use it!). I remember the quest to catch THE hot new video (c'mon, be honest. Can anyone say: "Thriller?"). Thinking back through the long list of videos I can remember is a way of marking the moments of my youth (A-ha's Take On Me sketch video, Peter Gabriel's cool stop-motion Sledgehammer video, or Dire Straits Money for Nothing cutting-edge computer graphics masterpiece). Even if you didn't have it, it was something in the background that you were aware of. It was part of the culture that was a reference point.

We're often not aware of the cultural threads around us that weave together the passage of time. We're even less aware of the threads that no longer run through the cultural fabric-threads we still assume others are aware of. One powerful reminder of this is the
Mindset List created by Beloit College.

"Each August since 1998, as faculty prepare for the academic year, Beloit College in Wisconsin has released the Beloit College Mindset List. A creation of Beloit’s Keefer Professor of the Humanities Tom McBride and Public Affairs Director Ron Nief, it looks at the cultural touchstones that have shaped the lives of today’s first-year students.

"According to McBride, this year’s entering students form “a generation that has always been ‘connected’ and is used to things happening in ‘real time,’ like live satellite coverage of revolutions and wars, instant messaging and movies on demand. They expect solutions for every problem, from baldness to diseased organs. To the chagrin of teachers and parents, they’ve developed their own generational means of communication."

Among this year's observations are these startling reminders:

- The Soviet Union has never existed and therefore is about as scary as the student union.

- They have known only two presidents.

- There has always been only one Germany.

- They have never heard anyone actually "ring it up" on a cash register.

- A coffee has always taken longer to make than a milkshake.

- "Google" has always been a verb.
[as opposed to a

- They have no idea why we needed to ask "...can we all get along?"

- They have always had access to their own credit cards.

- Disneyland has always been in Europe and Asia.

- The U.S. has always been studying global warming to confirm its existence.

Twenty-five years sounds like a long time. I can accept that some things will have changed in that time. I can understand that I was part of the pre-MTV generation. But eighteen years sounds a lot more recent. I remember the USSR! I remember the wall that divided East and West Germany! I remember coffee that wasn't "venti," "with soy," or served by a barista (is anyone else aware that that's
Italian for "bartender!?")

I'm glad I've been having fun. And I plan on continuing to have fun--I don't want it to go any faster! But, it does make you . . . startled? . . . shaken? . . . conscious!? to realize not only how fast time flies, and how much things can change with its passage. Much of the changes are meaningless and trivial. But others are significant, shaping the way a person views the world, thinks about their existence, engages in communication, or navigates relationships. The clock may not move any faster than it used to, but the pace of change does. We wonder sometimes why there are such big generational gaps that we have to work so hard to overcome in our time? I'm already feeling distant from today's eighteen year-olds!

Room for
Ruminating: Thinking about Titus 2 as we've been the last couple of Sundays, how does this factor into the young and old being meaningfully involved in each other's lives?


Angel Feathers Tickle Me said...

Love to all..........

S.Mallard said...

Wow, I had a Sonny & Cher album and a Carpenters 8 track. I get older faster all the time! Since we can't really keep up with technology of the young (you can't...believe me, I'm trying...the un-coolness of your attempt will run over you like a Mack truck-do they still have those?), maybe we bridge the gap by focusing on the timeless things. Like conversation, playing together, watching children, sharing our stories with each other. And then we share a few things from our world with them. My 93 year old grandfather got a kick out of seeing digital pictures of his grandkids on the laptop and checking out the camera they were taken with. And he had a frame of reference because he regularly reads 'Popular Science' along with his Readers Digest and Prarie Farmer magazine. The gap is not unbridgable. Just a thought.

Erin said...

My mom said I should post something...but it's 11:50 and I've been reading emo college blogs and facebook comments (seek out nearest human between ages 16 and 24 for translation) for an hour...so my communication skills are basically shot. But you should know that your blog inspired me to do just that-blog, communicate- and I'm interested, and I'm going to keep checking in on your venture. And everyone should read Donald Miller and The Oakland Post. The end.