Saturday, January 1, 2011

The 00s: A Retrospective

One of my nostalgic indulgences are those “year in review” segments that the network news assembles and broadcasts every December 31. I think it’s my inner history nerd. But I can remember sitting in front of Frank Reynolds as early as 1981, watching pre-digital video sequences and thinking, “Wow, it’s neat to see everything that happened last year in one stop.” I think I felt a sense of power in simply being able to re-experience everything in a short manner.

This year, the retrospectives have seemed less hyped, if slightly mottled. This is due in part to the 24 hour news channels and their constant review of the year over the course of the day (and preceding week), which then gives the evening news versions less punch. In response, the evening news producers feel the need to add a twist to the reporting of the year-in-review segment, which tends to obscure a sense of time.

But the real reason for 2010’s lackluster retrospectives, I think, has been the fact that our society has been a bit confused on the decade that has passed. Not only were many of us unsure when it started (the official, historian date is Jan. 1, 2001; most of us began it after partying like it was 1999) and ended, but the 00s’ events have been a disjointed experience leaving many of us bewildered.

Think about the decade we just had: we began with an impeached President who was as popular as ever, endured the nausea of chad soup in Florida only to have a court pick our leader, shuddered through 9/11 with a side of anthrax, invaded a country and didn‘t quite win, watched the culture wars continue over Mel Gibson and Terri Schiavo, witnessed a major city flood and black Americans drown en masse, got easy credit, got a female Speaker of the House, lost easy credit, watched the culture wars continue over Sarah Palin and Barack Obama, then finished it all by rooting for the Texas Rangers in the World Series while the devil repossessed the Cowboys.

And if the news wasn’t enough, we had no shortage of Fear Factor stunts in our personal lives. For this blogger, it was: marriage four days before January 1, 2000, children - a lot of them, joining the Baptist church, a $14,000 raise based solely on the dialect I spoke, exiting a high stress job and hanging out my own shingle, being on cable TV, crossing the Mississippi with almost $250,000 from a home sale, spending it, divorce, the bottom and sobriety, ministry, joblessness and the kindness of others, becoming a single parent, getting a book published. And also, etc.

Between all of this, I’d like to think I’ve maxed out my stress points for the next decade as well.

So I think that when we reflect on the 00s - in many ways a short portent of the information culture that is upon our world - we might get a little tired. There have been good reasons to be tired but satisfied; there have been negative experiences that have exhausted us.

But being tired is actually right where God wants us to be. It is the first stop on the train of dependence. Isaiah 40 says it best, “To him who lacks might He increases power.” We can’t get the might until we are out of our own. We are not done with own might until we’ve seen that god-as-us is no good.

The 00s for me are really just that: zeroes. And for this, I am extremely grateful. Happy ‘11