Babel in Our Times, or, Whatever Happened to the Age of Aquarius?
My wife and I saw this “cage of asparagus” picture recently on Facebook and just about laughed our heads off. Then we wondered, “Would our kids get the joke?” I checked, and at least one of them said they didn’t know it was about.
I’m not surprised. You kind of had to be there. And “there” was amazingly unlike the world we live in now. How to explain it, though? My answer might look something like this:
Dear Son and Daughter,
I understand you didn’t get the pun in the picture. This video should unlock it for you:
This “Age of Aquarius” was New Age-y long before there was any movement called “New Age.” And believe it or not, as far as I can tell they really meant it as a prophecy of a new world coming. Can you imagine anything like that today? What you might not realize is how the Bible’s story of the Tower of Babel has been replayed since then.
It starts with my generation’s idealism. Every generation is idealistic in its youth, but we baby boomers took it to the max. You didn’t have to believe in astrology (though many did) to believe we were entering the new “Age of Aquarius,” and that it was going to be just about perfect. From the song’s lyrics:
Harmony and understanding
Sympathy and trust abounding
No more falsehoods or derisions
Golden living dreams of visions
Mystic crystal revelation
And the mind’s true liberation
That kind of naive optimism would be scoffed at today. Back in the 60s, though, it pervaded a generation. It wasn’t just one song, by the way. Here’s another one that hit big in 1968:
The music is cheesy, the lyrics impossibly preachy. But we were so in love with the “groovy” idea that “people are finally gettin’ together,” we bought it anyway.
And amazingly, its message was true — sort of. We were finally gettin’ together like no generation before or since — with one exception I’ll come to in a moment. And it had almost everything to do with our music.
In the 60s, you see, we had basically four music choices on the radio: country/western, easy listening, public radio’s classical and/or jazz, or Top 40. But for teenagers there was really no choice: Everyone listened to Top 40. Everyone knew the same songs, sang the same songs, was influenced by the same songs.
And I really do mean pretty much everyone. Motown was a huge player in the market, which made Top 40 radio one of the most racially integrated places ever known in America. (Do I need to explain Motown?) And of course rock music spanned the globe, at least in countries with strong European connections.
This was strictly young people coming together, though. We didn’t trust trust anybody over 30. How could we? When our elders were young, they’d sung nonsense like “Mairzy doats and dozy doats and liddle lamzy divey.” They grew up and brought us the war. They certainly didn’t get our music.
We were wiser. More serious. We got it. We were fully clued in to the “Canticle” that was hiding behind “Scarborough Fair.”
This was sober stuff. Aware stuff. Our parents had missed it; we got it.
No Other Generation Like It …
We were The Generation. There will never be another like it, so hopeful, so idealistic, and especially so unified. Of course we knew there were problems — who could ignore Vietnam, and all the civil rights issues? But hey, we had “a new explanation”!
We were so certain. We were so sure we had it solved. And as it turns out, so foolish and so blind, in spite of what we thought we saw clearly.
Some of our foggy vision certainly had to do with our drug-addled, sex-confused brains. By the grace of God, and through great parents, I was spared many of those mistakes. But I still shared in the biggest error of my generation: Pride. Surely by now you’ve noticed how self-congratulating we were. If we could just get the over-30 crowd out of the way, we’d make things right at last. We had the world figured out. Just let us at it!
Fragmented Like Babel Now
Well, by now you’ve seen what we’ve done with the world since then. So much for having it all figured out.
We weren’t actually the first generation to think we could do it all. There was a previous one so strong in their unity, God himself even said they could do almost anything — which wasn’t good, because they didn’t know the God who had created them. So as Genesis chapter 11 — the “Tower of Babel” story — tells us, God came down and divided them into dozens of different language groups.
Do you think there might be a parallel to our day? I won’t try to push it too hard, but note what’s happened to our unity since the 60s. Take music again. Fifty years ago everyone listened to the same songs; today no one in the whole world listens to the same music I do. Not unless they’re streaming the same strange mix of classical, Celtic, jazz trombone and classic rock music that I like.
The Grace of God Is In This
More to the point, there’s hardly any agreement anymore as to what problems need solving or how to address them, much less any united spirit toward tackling problems together. So I wonder whether God has done something like a Babel intervention with us.
Think of it this way. Leftist politics today has clearly identifiable roots in 1960s campus radicalism. It’s bad enough as it is. Imagine if a whole generation was still united in that kind of thinking! To me it looks like God’s mercy that we’re no longer so unified, so idealistic, so unrealistic.
You’ll have your own stories to tell your children about your youth someday, just as I’m telling you mine now. I pray we can all learn from one another. In the end, though, hope is in the Lord and Him only. He is the Lord and Master of all the generations.
P.S. You do get the pun now, right? I’m telling you, for people my age, it was just about perfect. I hope you can appreciate it almost as much now, too.