Tuesday, September 21, 2010

OTR: Tempus Fugit

Tempus fugit... time flies. My 30th high school reunion coincides with the alma mater's Homecoming this weekend. I've decided to go back and check the place out, as well as see what some of my classmates look like in our middle age. Facebook postings likely will follow.

I was thinking about this on the way home today. A bunch of us old timers will be at the football game Friday night, standing outside the fence or sitting in the stands and we'll be as relevant to the kids on the field as a bunch of class of 1950 alumni would have been to us. And if we pause to think about that, our reaction will be, "Nah, those guys were OLD, we just went to school here a few years ago." And then we'll set about complaining that in our day we played football on Saturday afternoons, in the sun, on the grass, and our parents sat on the old bleachers across the street. No lights, no turf, and no fancy college stadium.

I thought about that 30 year gap for a few minutes... The class of 1950 was born in roughly 1932. We were generally born in 1962, and the kids who graduated last spring were generally born in 1992. That roughly corresponds to our parents, us, and our children... three generations. And what of the experiences of those generations? When we graduated, the school was just beginning to deploy the TRS-80 personal computer. The IBM PC was still a year away. The kids in that school today are likely carrying laptops or iPads and / or smartphones. One smartphone likely has more computing power than all the computers in the school in 1980. Our parents went to school at the dawn of the computing age, where one computer weighed tons and barely had the power of a basic pocket calculator.

We were the first class to have to buy a personal calculator and probably the last class to buy slide rules. My letter jacket was wool and leather, not synthetic and vinyl. We still had 45rpm records. The science classrooms had just been built. I think they've all been replaced with more recent construction. The school has two gyms and a proper theatre. We got by with one gym and a makeshift theatre. we watched game films on film, then on a "big screen" projection TV, which needed a special ("DON'T TOUCH!!!!") screen and likely cost many thousands of dollars.

Even more striking is thinking about what each generation grew up experiencing. Our parents were children of the Depression and WWII. The TV was a luxury item in 1950. But they would grow to adulthood in the relative prosperity of the 1950's. We were born in Camelot and became aware of the world during Vietnam, the assassinations, and the riots of 1968. We stayed up late to watch the Moon landing. We survived the first energy crisis and the inflation of the 1970's without really understanding it. Our children came to age during the dot com boom and likely have never known a day without the Internet or email. The witnessed 9/11, the Iraq and Afghan wars and the recession of today.

We want to think that our parents left us smarter and more privileged than they were. We hope that our children are smarter and more well off than we are. Our grandparents made the world safe for Democracy. our parents exercised their democratic rights loudly, we took democracy for granted, and our children wonder if democracy and western civilization will prevail.

Each generation has made its own brand on the world. When we read about the things that our parents lived through, it feels like ancient history. When my 13 year old hears me talk about the Moon landing, I'm sure she feels the same way. Tempus fugit.

I know when I look at the roster of the kids playing football, my first thought is "What the heck are they feeding these kids?" There's a kid that's 6'5" and 320 lbs. And I suspect he isn't sitting on the bench munching chips. I think they have something like 15 kids over 200 lbs. I think we had two or three and that was pushing it. I imagine that there are a few more of us today... I know what I've been eating...

And so a few of us will gather, we'll tell some stories and more than a few lies. We'll likely gossip about this person or that person. We'll inflate a resume or two. We'll measure ourselves against our peers, but probably give greater measure to our legacy. Or so I hope.

Tempus fugit.

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