Simple times, chaos and hope

Douglas Fritz • Jan 4, 2020 at 10:07 PM

Forty years ago when the 1980s started, simpler times were becoming less common, but they were still alive and well.

Fast forward to Wednesday and the new decade ushered in a stark contrast to the bygone days. It’s not all gloom and doom as we look ahead, but the 2020s appear to promise chaos at the top of its to-do list.

It seems like the world is already overrun with madness, and it’s difficult to find encouraging signs pointing to extended periods of general tranquility.

So how did we get here?

Growing up in the 1970s provided a much slower pace, but there were plenty of things to do. Most of the fun stuff involved getting out of the house. Staying at home to watch television wasn’t much of a thing because the viewing choices were few.

When the 1980s rolled around, computers began to change lives. Things that once were cumbersome and time consuming became practical and automated. But there was a catch. Computers made things easier, but also eliminated jobs.

The rise of the computer age was more insidious than it was dramatic. As people became more reliant on computers, they became less reliant on people. And remember, even to this day the world’s best computers are only effective if a human being keeps them functioning. (Let us not digress into the sci-fi potpourri for now).

In 1980 social life was focused on gathering together, with a growing diversity of options. Church had been the main magnet for decades. And although attendance was declining slightly, it was still strong. Families tended to get together in large groups — and not only on Thanksgiving and Christmas. They gathered throughout the year, not needing a special occasion.

On the employment front, many workers tried to embed themselves in an organization where moving up was a reasonably attainable perk. Traveling by airplanes was becoming more affordable and popular. Credit cards started moving the needle away from a strictly cash-based society.

In many ways, moving into the 1980s was an exciting time. Opportunities were abounding, even though some of those possibilities led to dark and twisting roads. Little did we know at the beginning of 1980 that the next 10 years would be a decade remembered significantly for greed and excess.

Yes, the Cold War was still raging. It was common for people to be fearful of nuclear devastation. For those folks who were finishing their teenage years as the 1980s began, the future seemed a bit ominous.

Simple times were the new dinosaurs.

Comparing 1980 to 2020 is a contrasted picture with the different strokes on the same canvas. On the left side, the former is depicted by simple things awash in sea of change — easily distinguishable between the two. On the right, the latter is a mess of brush strokes that defy rhyme or reason.

Think about where the world is today. People are increasingly isolated while their narcissism is burgeoning. If you went on a vacation in 1980, perhaps you took pictures, had them developed, and showed them months later to a select-few friends and family. These days, pictures are often shared during the course of the trip. They are viewed not only by family and not-so-close friends, but by people the person in the photo hasn’t seen, spoken with, texted, or even given more than a passing thought about in years.

One thing 2020 has in common with 1980 is the threat of nuclear war. Yes, it seems to take a back seat to climate change these days — which came to the forefront in the late 1980s when scientist James E. Hansen testified in front of the Senate. The biggest difference now is every nook and cranny of information that relates to either of those things is instantly known across the globe.

Also, every time something unsettling happens in any corner of the world, we have the ability to learn about it in a click. And with 7.53 billion people on earth — three billion more than there were in 1980 — there are going to be some heinous acts committed.

The 1980s had its postal shootings. They were uncommon and shocking. As the 2020s begin, it seems like NBC Nightly News might need to sadly consider expanding Lester Holt’s air time to an hour, just because of mass killings — which are not uncommon and can become mind-numbing.

There is an evil force running rampant in the world today. The day of simple is fading and the world of chaos is charging upon us.

But there is good news. In a sermon from 1984 that carries the same weight in 2020, Minnesota pastor John Piper pointed to the last eight verses of the sixth chapter of Matthew. Piper said anxiety is useless and only produces misery. He said people should not misappropriate God’s allotted troubles for tomorrow by bringing them forward into today in the form of anxiety.

And remember, one day evil will be tamed and silenced forever.

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