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My Favorite Hymn – Part Two

BLOG #11, SERIES #8
WEDNESDAYS WITH DR. JOE
MY FAVORITE HYMN – WHAT A RESPONSE!
Part Two
March 15, 2017

Now for the rest of the responses to our survey:

Nelma’s favorite hymn is “O For a Thousand Tongues to Sing.”

Donald Thompson, from Carmichael, California, wrote:

My favorite hymn is : “O Love That Will Not Let Me Go.” The reason being that I love the tune and the message.

I have had many disappointments and failures in my life, and there have been times when I felt God had abandoned me. In times like these this great hymn has given me encouragement, and the assurance that He has not left me to serve alone. His love has never let me go. His own son thought He had forsaken Him, but was fully assured that this was not the case. Through my tears, and through my fears the words of the hymn: “I lay in dust life’s glory dead, and feel the promise is not vain that morn shall tearless be.” Even though there may be some undesirable things in our life that will never change, the hymn points us to the time when these pains and disappointments in our life will be no more.”

Lois Rowell Karlsberger of Ohio, wrote:

I am responding to Blog #8, Series #8 of February 15. What a wonderful request for favorite hymns and why they are meaningful!

I’ll be interested to have news of the responses. I am sure this request will be a blessing to your readers.

My response is attached. I do enjoy the blog!

* * * * *

“Under His Wings” was written in 1896 by William O Cushing—minister and poet—and set to music by Ira D. Sankey—gospel composer associated with evangelist Dwight L. Moody. The verses of this hymn and its refrain include quotations from two well-known passages of Scripture: The Ninety-first Psalm and the closing verse of Romans, Chapter 8. Together with its flowing and lyrical tune, this precious hymn has brought me comfort, assurance, and peace—from the time I first heard it sung in the northern California church of my childhood.

Closely linked with “Under His Wings” is a memory picture from long ago. On a dark morning in January 1956 at our home in Angwin, California, my father is reclining in his chair. Gravely ill, he has only a few days to live. My mother stands close behind him, holding his hand. Together they are reciting the Ninety-first Psalm, each helping the other to recall every verse.

A few years before, Dad had encouraged me, then in my early teens, to memorize this wonderful Psalm. “On a wakeful night,” he gently told me, “the words will quiet your mind and let you rest.” Now, looking back over these many years, I can truly say that his counsel was wise and faithful. And as I grow older, I cling ever closer to the beloved Psalm and the cherished hymn—taken together, a blessed affirmation of the eternal, unfailing love of our heavenly Father.

“He shall cover thee with His feathers, and under His wings shalt thou trust.” Psalm 91:4.
“[Nothing] shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:39.

Traci Reust wrote:

Since receiving your email last week I have been pondering the question about my favorite hymn. My life has been surrounded by hymns as I grew up in the church and currently sing the hymns in corporate and personal worship times. Then, the thought struck me to share the hymns which the Lord has used to minister to my soul at various times in my life. So, if you allow me, I would like to submit three hymns as my favorites.

First of all, “Jesus Paid it All” was the hymn which launched me on this believer’s journey. The straight forward message of the chorus – “Jesus paid it all, all to Him I owe; sin had left a crimson stain, He washed it white as snow” – reflects my basic understanding of accepting Christ as my Savior and Lord. My gratefulness of the saving act of Jesus Christ is truly summed up in the words of this hymn.

Next, “The Solid Rock” has been the hymn aiding me into mature growth in my walk with Christ. I really love how this hymn tells the entire gospel story in a few short stanzas – our hope is built on Jesus’ righteousness, we can rest on His unchanging grace, standing faultless before the throne dressed in His righteousness! And, I really appreciate the analogy in the title and chorus of Christ being our solid rock because life can sometimes feel like sinking sand!

Finally, “It Is Well With My Soul” reflects, for me, the struggles and challenges of life we all experience and the choices we can make about those hard times. Will I persevere in my faith even though sorrows roll? I especially love the line “Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say, it is well with my soul.” In God’s Word I believe we are taught that life will offer struggles and challenges, yet we do not carry those burdens alone for Jesus bears it with us. Praise the Lord, O my soul!

Thank you for sharing one of your readers’ questions! This was a delightful exercise to recall how the Lord has used hymns in my life to teach me of His providential love and grace for me!

And, in conclusion, since Peter and Jill Grenfell asked Connie and me to weigh in on our favorite hymns too, we’ll do so.

Connie categorically declares that “How Great Thou Art” is her favorite hymn. Reason being, “that it feeds my soul!”

* * * * *

As for me, it would have to be an old hymn titled, “He Is Calling.” I first heard it sung out of that venerable horizontal hymn book titled Christ in Song. It was first copyrighted by F. E. Belden in London, in 1908. My edition was published by the Review & Herald Publishing Association. Containing almost a thousand hymns, it was subtitled “The Largest Gospel Song and Standard Tune Collection.”

If you ever wanted to acquire the most beloved hymns ever featured in one hymn book, this is the one for you. As a child, I loved, “Ring the Bells of Heaven,” “Tell Me the Story of Jesus,” “Keep on the Sunny Side of Life,” “Tell Me the Old, Old Story,” “Under His Wings,” “Seeking the Lost,” “Abide With Me,” “Amazing Grace,” and “Like a Little Candle.”

But, as I said earlier, I loved “He Is Calling” [sometimes referred to as “There’s a Wideness”]. Long before I was old enough to think about the meaning much, I was enthralled by the refrain, especially when I heard bassos tackle the deep descent.

It was considerably later, though, when I realized why I really loved it most: It was because it reveals why it is that we love Jesus so much. Not doctrine. Not creed. Just Jesus.

Written by Faber, it is also often sung as an alto solo.

The first stanza has always appealed to me because, even when I was a small child, I personally related to the wideness of the sea. It was later in life before I understood “the kindness in his justice” — or as Victor Hugo put it in Les Miserables: “The Tear in the Eye of the Law.” Here are the lines:

1. There’s a wideness in God’s mercy,
    Like the wideness of the sea;
    There’s a kindness in his justice,
    Which is more than liberty.

2.  There is welcome for the sinner,
And more graces for the good;
There is mercy with the Saviour;
There is healing in his blood.

3. There’s no place where earthly sorrows,
    Are more felt than up in heav’n;
    There’s no place where earthly failings,
    Have such kindly judgment giv’n.

4. For the love of God is broader
    Than the measure of man’s mind;
    And the heart of the Eternal
    Is most wonderfully kind.

5. But we make his love too narrow,
    By false limits of our own;
    And we magnify his strictness
    With a zeal he will not own.

6. If our love were but more simple,
    We should take him at his word;
    And our lives would be all sunshine
    In the sweetness of our Lord.

REFRAIN
(Sung after each stanza)

   He is calling, “Come to me”;
   Lord, I gladly follow thee!

Lines that create a mosaic of a God we can all relate to and love.

Now I ask of you: Read each line out loud, slowly,. All the while asking yourself: If this line captures the essence of our Lord . . . am I reflecting that kindness and love to all those I interact with each day? Kindness. Mercy. Wideness of His love and mercy. Do we make His love too narrow? Do we magnify [and distort] His strictness with a zeal our Lord would not condone?

If there was ever a hymn that internalizes the Didache (in Matthew 22:37-40), this would be it: The simplicity of the Gospel.

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My Favorite Hymn — What a Response!

BLOG #10, SERIES #8
WEDNESDAYS WITH DR. JOE
MY FAVORITE HYMN – WHAT A RESPONSE!
March 8, 2017

When I floated the question into cyberspace on February 15, I had no idea that so many of our blog readers would weigh in on it.

We’ll start with Peter Grenfell of Oamaru, New Zealand, who started all this:

Greetings to you all. My favourite hymn is “Eternal Father Strong to Save.” My reason for this choice is I have always loved the sea and have throughout my life been fortunate to live in areas with a view of the sea. During my Compulsory Military Training in the Navy I was fortunate to attend a church service in the Chapel of St. Christopher H.M.N.Z.S. ‘Philomel.’ It was a Memorial Service for Leander. The service was one of the most dignified and personal that I have ever attended and the singing and worship has always stayed with me.

Marilyn Nelson of Walla Walla, Washington, wrote:

My favorite song is “Tears Are a Language God Understands” because of the message it contains. He understands when we feel like crying. . . . My favorite poem is “God Has Not Promised” which has also been put to music so I guess you would say it is my favorite song as well. It too is a source of encouragement when life is hard.

Barbara Sines, from Maryland, wrote:

I always read your weekly blog with interest and like your New Zealand friends pass them along to other friends. This has provoked some good discussions among our friends. Your invitation to name a favorite hymn had me thinking of which hymn among many I would offer.

Of course, several hymns immediately came to mind but two are meaningful to me. The first is an all time favorite, “What a Friend We Have in Jesus” because it was one of the first hymns I learned to play on the piano and has remained with me since childhood. The second is “I’d Rather Have Jesus” because the words are so meaningful to me.

Hymns speak to me through their words and frequently are like sermons set to music. I am often moved to tears when singing them. At Spencerville Church where we attend church I will sometimes just stop and listen to the congregation sing. It is quite moving and humbling. Our church loves to sing! We have a wonderful well known music ministry and the organ lends itself to this atmosphere of congregational singing. Many hymns we learned in childhood at evening worship. I hope the next generations will learn to love the old hymns we know and love and listen to the words they speak to us.

Thanks for the invitation! I will be interested in reading your future blogs and responses you receive.

Linda Findley wrote:

It is a gospel song written by American songwriter C. Austin Miles (1868-1946). I think “In the Garden” is my favorite because of the mental image it creates in me. I picture walking with my Lord, Creator, and Savior through the great outdoors. He is my Mentor and Guide through life and I can come to Him with anything. I frequently use it as part of my morning worship.

Jane Johnson wrote:

Can I have more than one? “Amazing Grace,” because I feel God’s love when I hear or sing it, especially when bagpipes are played. Next is “Leaning on the Everlasting Arms,” and “Power in the Blood.” Can’t forget “The Battle Hymn of the Republic.” I’m stopping with 4 favorites. Thanks for asking. Enjoy your writing very much. Found one of your books in a thrift store and fell in love with your style. Thanks.

Elsi Dodge of Boulder, Colorado wrote:

“How Great Thou Art.”
Why do I love it?
Let me count the ways . . .

I love it because I can sing it, full volume, from the top of a mountain road, in a field of wildflowers, by a racing brook, or during a thunderstorm.

I love it because I can hum it or murmur the words when I’m driving in tricky circumstances, or parked at a rest area to catch my breath, or galumphing from campground to campground, looking for one with a site for me.

I love it because I sneaked it in at both my parents’ funerals—Mother’s because “It’s about nature, and she was a Scout, you know” and Daddy’s because “He was a Scout, too, and we sang it at Mother’s service two years ago.” It’s not in the hymnal at the non-Christian church they attended (because of those two last verses … you know, the ones about Jesus), but I happily printed out the words, and the entire congregation sang it!

I love it because I can pray it for hours when I’m in too much pain (physical or emotional) to sleep and need to be distracted: “O, Lord” … Almighty, omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent, Alpha and Omega—-“my God” … yes, You’re mine, and I’m Yours, so I’m safe, no matter how it feels right now!— “when I in awesome wonder” … yes, wonder … I wonder how You could love someone like me.

Kathleen Raffoul of Houston,Texas wrote:

I am Catholic and this song always makes me cry when I hear it at mass:
“On Eagles Wings.”
My friend who passed away several years ago had a lovely voice, and sang it often for the mass. It is a beautiful and inspiring song, and also reminds me of her, who was a very special person.

Michelle Swanson of Sturgeon, Missouri wrote:

Great idea to get folks thinking about grand music. Tough to choose a favorite hymn, there are so many great ones. My favorite is “Jesus Is Coming Again” (#213 in Adventist Hymnal). The first time that song impressed me was at campmeeting when I was seven. It was the Nebraska campmeeting theme song that year and they had four men playing the trumpets and I think the King’s Heralds were leading the song the evening I remember. Thrilling! I’ve always liked that hymn.

Ruth Newsome wrote:

It is very difficult to choose one favorite hymn from so many favorites, but for me, my one would have to be “How Firm a Foundation.” This was my Grandfather’s favorite and I came to know and love it through him. His marriage to my Grandmother was a second marriage. Previously, he had lost a wife, twin babies and another little girl to death (this was in the late 1800’s). He was left with two small boys, yet he never became bitter. I never heard him say that this hymn sustained him through all of the sorrow, but as I grew older, and I, too, began to rely on the comfort of its words, I figured out that the hope, assurance and security found in those words must have given him reasons to go on.

When I was in my first year of college, I had to take swimming and I, having never been around water, was scared to death. I would go to swimming class repeating in my head, “when through the deep waters, I cause you to go. . .”

Later in my life when facing cancer surgery, I relied on, “the soul that on Jesus has leaned for repose I’ll never, no never forsake.”

Now, I read the words of that grand old hymn and find hope, comfort and promise in every one of its verses.

I remember my grandfather and am forever grateful for him and his love of “How Firm a Foundation.”

JoAnne Lefever wrote:

Mine is “What a Friend We Have in Jesus.” This has been my favorite for as long as I can remember. I so much believe in prayer where we can take all our burdens and troubles; all our discouragements, trials, and temptations. He is a friend so forever faithful. It has all the exact words that speak to my heart and need. I love it more than all my other favorite hymns.

Julie Sobota of Conifer, Colorado wrote:

I was intrigued by your blog this morning and can’t wait to read about everyone’s favorite hymns. Mine is “I Surrender All.” Years ago at a church I attended in Texas, a very beloved pastor was driven out through a difficult time of disharmony in that congregation. I was a very new Christian at the time and I will never forget the Sabbath that pastor gave his final sermon about the importance of acceptance and forgiveness. With tears streaming down his face he led us in praising God through that beautiful hymn which teaches us to surrender our lives to Jesus. Whenever I hear it, whenever I sing it, I am once again reminded that the only way on this difficult journey is a surrender daily to our blessed Savior.

Thanks Dr. Joe for all you do!

To be continued in next week’s blog.

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Daniel Defoe’s “Robinson Crusoe”

BLOG #9, SERIES #8
WEDNESDAYS WITH DR. JOE
DR. JOE’S BOOK OF THE MONTH CLUB #62
ROBINSON CRUSOE
March 1, 2017

It is long past time for us to feature one of the greatest books ever written—unthinkable to complete your life’s journey without reading it at least once.

Image
McLoughlin Brothers, 1890’s Edition

I spent about a year of my life researching, reading, and editing my editions of Robinson Crusoe. Initially, three centuries ago, both Part I and Part II were published as one book. But, as time passed, more and more publishers left out the second part completely. When Focus on the Family/Tyndale House published my edition of the book, it was decided to issue it in two parts: Robinson Crusoe (1997) and The Farther Adventures of Robinson Crusoe (1999).

I shall now share with you some of the thoughts I expressed in my 63-page Introduction/Bio:

THE LONGEVITY OF
ROBINSON CRUSOE

How or why does one book survive, and another not? This has to be one of life’s ultimate rhetorical questions. Very few books outlive the generation they are written for—fewer still the second generation. But to live for more than three centuries, as Robinson Crusoe has done—that’s a miracle.

Strange as it seems, Robinson Crusoe’s resilience astonished even its author, Daniel Defoe. Usually, an author knows instinctively when he has written a great book. Apparently, Defoe did not. Perhaps it was because he didn’t really know what he had written—for nothing remotely like Robinson Crusoe had ever been published before.

From all indications, Defoe wrote the book, not because he had the proverbial “fire in the gut” (having to write the thing or die), but because he had a fire at his heels: His creditors were after him again. Imagine how much of our greatest literature would never have been created without that eternal struggle to survive—to keep food on one’s table and a roof over one’s head!

Initially, Defoe was simply trying to capitalize on the current mania for travel books. But he went beyond the genre by personalizing the story with the character of a shipwrecked mariner. Also, Defoe chose to pour a lot of his tormented self and his remarkable life into Robinson Crusoe—especially his growing loneliness.

Defoe could not have written this book earlier in his life. He had to first be battered by the years. Defoe remained on the cutting edge of his time because, for most of his sixty years of life, he gobbled up knowledge. He would rush to buy travel books only hours after they left the press, and he researched his ever-changing world exhaustively and unceasingly. Because of his efforts, we are able to see into the world as it was known at Crusoe’s time.

The vast continent of Africa, for example, was still “dark”: Not even Livingstone had trekked across it. Also unknown was that frozen world to the north.” (p. xi)

* * *

Defoe wrote his best, and most enduring, works in the final years of his life. It was as if God had been preparing him all those years for that moment. Through the years, he had always found a new direction out of the ashes of defeat. Thus he concluded that out of disaster,. God always points us to a better way. [In the original, Defoe wrote a moving conversion story into Part I, and another into Part II. Sadly, most modern publishers leave both out!] Defoe began to experiment as he never had before—with new points of view, different kinds of narrators, different kinds of characters and characterizations, different literary forms.

Somewhere between 1714 and 1717, Defoe began thinking about doing something that had rarely been done before: writing a story in plain English prose so that everyone could understand and enjoy it. It would be a story about life—especially about the loneliness of life. And since Bunyan had set his Pilgrim’s Progress in England, Defoe would go farther away, perhaps even travel around the world. And instead of a prison of iron bars, his character would be cast on a deserted island in the middle of the ocean. That certainly would be a prison! He’d name the protagonist after his childhood friend: Timothy Cruso. Except “Timothy” wasn’t quite right. He’d have to come up with a better first name.

Once Defoe unleashed his alter ego, Robinson Crusoe, and put himself in his place, absolutely alone on an island, something began to happen: The story became increasingly real to him. Defoe couldn’t have Crusoe do or say anything uncharacteristic, for he saw every reader saying to himself as he read, “Yes! If I were in Crusoe’s place, that’s exactly what I would have thought/said/done.”

Though he himself couldn’t travel the world, there were plenty of resources Defoe could use to provide the information he needed. He reread William Daumpier’s book A New Voyage Around the World, published in 1703, which related the story of an Indian marooned for three years on San Fernando Island. Speaking of San Fernando Island, wasn’t that the one that Alexander Selkirk had been left on for four years, until Captain Cook rescued him? That tale was in A Voyage to the South Sea, and Around the World, published in 1712. Then there was Captain Woodes Roger’s book A Cruising Voyage Around the World, also published in 1712. Two other good voyage books were Daniel Beckman’s Voyage to and from the Island of Borneo, published in 1718; and James Janeway’s Legacy to His Friends, published in 1674. The latter dealt with God’s providence, something most writers ignored. And then there were a number of travel books such as Hakluyt’s Voyages that would help when Crusoe got off the island and made up for lost time by really traveling.

When Defoe delivered the finished manuscript to William Taylor at Sign of the Ship in Paternoster Row, April 25, 1719, he did not do so with pride. He knew Robinson Crusoe was good, but this kind of story would be looked down on by so many people. Well, the 100-pound payment would cover quite a few bills.

Sadly for the Defoe family, 100 pounds was all Defoe ever received for the book. It would be others who would make a fortune from it. The first printing in late April was for 1,000 copies; by May 9, a second printing had been done; by June 6, a third printing was ordered. Within a year, Robinson Crusoe had been translated into French, German, and Dutch. By the end of the nineteenth century, 181 years later, it had come out in more than 700 different editions—today, that number is well over 1,000. Without question, it is one of the best-selling books of all time.

The second part of the book, The Farther Adventures of Robinson Crusoe, was published in August 1719. Many editions include only the first part of the story: Crusoe’s life on the island. (pp. xiii, iv).

ARCHAIC WORDS

Three centuries ago, our language was somewhat different from today’s. Consequently, whenever I came across a word that was too archaic to show up in standard dictionaries, I footnoted it and provided the original meaning of the word.

Focus/Tyndale Edition - 1997
Focus/Tyndale Edition – 1997

PARAGRAPHING

Defoe utilized monstrous paragraphs; in mercy to the modern reader, I separated such run-on text into paragraphs at natural breaks. I also provided headings where needed (usually using Defoe’s own words).

ILLUSTRATIONS

I also wanted to bring back what has been virtually lost during the last century: marvelous woodcut illustrations. These were true works of art that not only captured wonderfully the essence of the scenes being depicted but also give us faithful depictions of objects, people, cities, landmarks, etc., of the time. I incorporated the 120 original illustrations by Walter Paget that were used in the McLaughlin Brothers edition.

UNABRIDGED VS. ABRIDGED

One of the most dishonest practices I know of is for a publisher to abridge a book without acknowledging that at the front of the book—yet they do. Indeed, I’d venture to say that many modern editions are in fact abridgements. My texts are complete and unabridged. They also have Discussion Questions at the end of the book.

Focus/Tyndale Edition - 1999
Focus/Tyndale Edition – 1999

Should you be interested in picking up a copy of our (out-of-print) version, Robinson Crusoe (new) is available at $14.99, and The Farther Adventures of Robinson Crusoe (new) is $12.99 – plus the shipping at $6.00 per book.

Go to our web page: www.joewheelerbooks.com, and you can place your order there.

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Binge-Drinking

                                                          BLOG #8, SERIES #8
                                           WEDNESDAYS WITH DR. JOE
                                                        BINGE-DRINKING
                                                          February 22, 2017

I’m confident that Amy Dickinson’s nationally syndicated column of February 9, 2017, has caused a lot of Americans to think seriously about the temptations our young people are facing.

Here is how the Denver Post column begins:

    “Dear Amy:
“My wife and I worry about our daughter. She’s a sophomore at a top university…. Since she started college, she’s been cited twice for under-age drinking (minor in possession) and broken her wrist in a fall that we all but know was alcohol-related…. In my gut, I feel we are heading for disaster. How can we intervene before something even worse happens? She has a car on campus and we worry most about her driving drunk.
—Worried Parents”

Dickinson responded with the following sobering observations:

Dear Worried:
“According to a recent government study, 39 percent of college students binge drank within the last month. If your daughter is drinking, it makes her vulnerable to legal consequences (getting caught), physical injury (this has already happened), unwanted sexual contact, fractured relationships, hurting or injuring others by driving drunk, and the possibility of graduating from college with a  serious drinking problem.”

* * * * *

It is highly unlikely that American parents have ever faced a more frightening environment in which their children grow up, attend college and university, and not only survive our current hook-up temptations (sex within minutes of meeting one another), the easy availability of drugs of all kinds, and out-of-control liquor-related socializing—but hopefully somehow emerge from it unbroken.

Thanks to binge-drinking, coeds open themselves up to date-rape, and lifelong remorse for things they do while under the influence.

It’s frightening to see how often one form of substance abuse segues into something worse, and more deadly. Furthermore, the ever-present reality is that no one can possibly know in advance which of us luck out and learn to control our use of liquor and which of us turns into a lifelong alcoholic—by the time you find out which category you end up in, it’s too late! And once you discover you are an alcoholic, there is no full recovery: the price of holding it at bay is weekly Alcoholics Anonymous meetings for the rest of your life.

And we haven’t even discussed the epidemic of alcohol-related violence that we see all around us.

It is anything but easy for a young person to resist the siren call of alcohol.

Amy Dickinson is certainly right there.

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My Favorite Hymn

    BLOG #7, SERIES #8
    WEDNESDAYS WITH DR. JOE
    MY FAVORITE HYMN
    February 15, 2017

I just received this query from two of our blog readers, Peter and Jill Grenfell of Oamaru, New Zealand:

“Thank you for forwarding your articles to us each week. They always contain items of interest and things to ponder on. In many cases we send them on to family and friends. Here is an idea for you. Over this last Christmas period our New Zealand concert radio programme asked listeners to send in their favourite hymn and the reason for the choice.”

“Would this be something you could suggest to your readers, that they send their selection and reasons for choice to you? We would be interested in your favourite hymn and Connie’s also.”

God Bless,
Peter and Jill”

So, I’m taking this opportunity to follow through on this request.

All each of you would need to do is email to us the name of your personal favorite hymn along with reason(s) why the hymn is so meaningful to you. We’ll give you 14 days to get your response in to us. Then, we’ll let you know which readers responded and which hymns they chose—and why.

Please respond this week to me at mountainauthor@gmail.com. Look forward to hearing back from you. If we get enough responses we may occasionally try other survey questions.

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Generations—Trying to Get Them Straight

BLOG #6, SERIES #8
WEDNESDAYS WITH DR. JOE
GENERATIONS—TRYING TO GET THEM STRAIGHT
February 8, 2017

For years now, I’ve heard generation labels tossed about electronically, on paper, and in conversations, but rarely does anyone try to define them. As a historian of ideas, finally I’d had enough of this murkiness, and decided to do some sleuthing myself.

One of the first things I discovered was that there is sometimes little consensus in terms of what to call a given generation, or even when a certain generation begins and when it ends. It’s sort of like epiphanies: rarely are you aware that you are experiencing one—only in retrospect can you look back at certain days and conclude: “You know, if that day had never been, how different my life would have been!” The same is true of generations: you can only define them in retrospect, when the dust settles and you can see the time period clearly.

My wife Connie and I discovered two sources: Philip Bump’s article, “Here Is When Each Generation Begins and Ends, According to Facts,” in the March 25, 2014 issue of The Atlantic; and “Why Advertisers Ignore You,” in the December 2016/January 2017 issue of AARP, the Magazine.

According to Philip Bump, the Census Department does not generally even attempt to label a time period. And it took a running battle between The New York Times and Slate to sort out the Millennials.

Let’s see what we’ve found out:

THE GREATEST GENERATION

It was so labeled by Tom Brokaw, and the name stuck—but not how to define it. These are the people who fought and died in World War II. Bump postulates that the generation’s dates should be 1926-1946, ending when the war ended. AARP muddies the water considerably by splitting the period in two:

The Greatest Generation: 1907 – 1927
The Silent Generation: 1027 – 1946

I believe that here Bump has the edge in terms of consensus: the Greatest Generation time period ought to conclude with the end of World War II.

THE BABY BOOMERS

The Census Department does define this period date-wise: 1946-1964. It gets its name from the return to civilian life of millions of soldiers after the war’s end in 1945. The servicemen and servicewomen married, went to college on the G.I. Bill and had babies. My personal preference would have been to call this time period The Norman Rockwell Generation. Reason being, it was the last time period we’ve had that was mostly peaceful. It was also the last period characterized by a general acceptance of marriage, Judeo-Christian religion, and patriotism as the prevailing societal building blocks. Famed artist Norman Rockwell chronicled this peaceful time period in his 322 Saturday Evening Post covers (though Rockwell covers began earlier in the Twentieth Century, the real flowering impact-wise came in the 1950’s). Also, during this period, the U.S. was undeniably the strongest power in the world (morally, economically, politically, and militarily). It represents in history the high tide of Pax Americana—and its centerpiece was the Eisenhower administration.

GENERATION X

This time period has never yet been clearly defined, but its time-frame is generally agreed upon as 1964-1983. I would submit that the assassination of John F. Kennedy in Dallas on November 22, 1963, slammed the door on the Rockwell Era. All hell broke loose after that terrible date: the assassinations of Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Robert Kennedy, the March to Montgomery, the Watts riots, the March on the Pentagon, Watergate and Nixon’s resignation, the Vietnam War, Ford surviving two assassination attempts—and family-wise,, divorce soaring 69% in but ten years, marriages now becoming an endangered species . . . lasting only 6.6 years. It also includes the Hippy Era, with its explosion of substance abuse and indiscriminate sex. It makes sense that no one has yet been able to successfully label this time period. Some try to insert a Generation Y into this time period, but really can’t seem to figure out how.

MILLENNIALS

Generally, the time frame for this generation haws been pegged at 1984 – 2004. As time passes, this generation may be relabeled in terms of the rise of nano-technology, the social media, cyber warfare, etc. This time period also fascinates me because historians of ideas are well aware that all century-turning of the zeros are turbulent. During the last decade (fin-de-siecle) of each one, it seems as if all the mores by which that society lives by are thrown into the sky in one cosmic Hail Mary pass—and no one knows what will come down on the other side. 500-year-turns are even more seismic. And millennial turns even more so. The last thousand-year turn was followed by the Crusades and the so-called Dark Ages or Age of Faith. The last 500-year-turn was preceded by the Renaissance and followed by the Reformation.

WHAT NEXT?

No one knows yet what this 2005-2025 period will be called. But we do know that it began with an ideological shift left away from Christianity and, in 2016-2017, a wrenching polarizing shift back towards the right which is bound to result in turmoil. And America, in withdrawing its Pax America umbrella of stabilization from the rest of the world and retreating into a narcissistic It’s All About Me mindset—no one has any idea as to where all this will end up. No one yet knows where and when the dust will settle on the ideological Hail Mary Pass….but whatever happens, historians of ideas will have a field day trying to figure out its trajectory. Ominously, AARP editors tentatively label this Generation Z. So what will follow Z? Some are already calling this the Hook-up Generation because there appears to be no commitment tying in to the sexual act for millions of young people. Or the Suicide Generation—for suicides have reached epidemic levels. Or even the Opiod Generation or Social Media Generation.