Walking the plank

Frames of reference

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Dec. 8 will mark the 20th anniversary of the murder of John Lennon, who was shot down outside of his New York apartment.

I was 16 at the time it happened but had been a Beatlemaniac since I was 10.

I guess I couldn't actually be called a Beatlemaniac because I am too young. I was born in the same year the Beatles appeared for the first time on the "Ed Sullivan Show."

And even though I had heard every song the man had ever recorded, read a dozen books and hundreds of articles on the Beatles and Lennon, my generation could only imagine the significance the Fab Four had on popular culture and, some say, the world in general.

Generations are framed by the here and the now of their own existence.

The past has ebbed away and the future, well the future comes at such startling speed in this digital age that often it becomes the past before it has a chance to be the present.

We often take for granted our own life experiences so that we superimpose our own frames of reference on others without even thinking about it.

But if we do stop and think about it, and as the year 2000 comes to a close maybe it's a good time for such reflection, we realize each generation has its own paradigm in which it is forced to view the generations of the past and those of the future.

Important events of our day often become the footnotes of the next generation.

Take for instance, the class of 2001.

The murder of Lennon and the assassination attempt on Ronald Reagan is ancient history. As a matter of fact, Reagan's presidency is as faded as the movies he made to the Class of 2001. The Class of 2001 has only really experienced one president, catching only a glimpse of George Bush.

The release of American hostages in 1981 by Iranian captors, along with the sale of the first IBM personal computer with the MS-DOS operating system by Bill Gate's Microsoft is dusty history.

AIDS emerged in that same year, which means the disease has loomed over the lives of the Class of 2001 as long as it can remember.

MTV, which for many has become a daily staple, was launched before those classmates were even born.

The year that most of them were actually born 1983 saw the release of Michael Jackson's album "Thriller." But the Class of 2001 never bought albums; the compact disc had already become common place by the time they could appreciate music.

Most of them, if not all, were too young to remember the grand tragedy of the Challenger explosion that generated national mourning and caused a setback for the U.S. space program. With space shuttle launches becoming practically an every-day occurrence, it's hard to imagine the shuttle program was nearly scuttled.

That same year there was another kind of explosion in the Ukraine called Chernobyl. It was the worst nuclear catastrophe anywhere ever, polluting the environment and causing perhaps 8,000 deaths after the accident..

And while Chernobyl smoldered, the Soviet Union fizzled and finally fell apart. But the Cold War never existed as far as the Class of 2001 is concerned, not past the pages of a history book anyway.

Events of our time shape how we think, live and interact with each other.

"What we're you doing when you heard Kennedy was shot?"

"What we're you doing when you heard John Lennon was shot?"

Perhaps the question posed between those of the Class of 2001 will be "What were you doing when you heard about Columbine?" and those of the Class of 2010 will be left to wonder what it really was all about.

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