In the future, cars fly. So do people, courtesy of a jet pack. Robots do all the menial labor jobs, like sorting our laundry and presoaking our dishes. And we wear fewer breathable fabrics.
Meet George Jetson. His boy Elroy, daughter Judy, and Jane, his wife, appeared in the early 60s and again in the mid-80s to give us a taste of what was coming. Or at least an imaginative idea. It was a hearty try at predicting the future, though robotic maids are still not in use nor charmingly sassy.
Foretelling the future has been exploited, expunged, and extrapolated since the first hour hand of the first clock struck the first minute. In the end, it all appears to be your basic guesswork. Some right, most wrong. In 1914, British government official Sir Henry Blake predicted the future rise of noiseless cities with brick, stone, and pavement replaced by rubber. In 1999, analysts predicted the digital combustion of all computer systems at the strike of midnight on January 1, 2000. In 2011, Harold Camping predicted the end of the world on Friday, Oct. 21.
Okay, largely wrong.
There have been predictions about Superbowl winners, about wars, about the human race becoming one-toed.
Why? Because people want to know what’s next. Having an answer is big money, keeping financial speculators and gypsies in business for centuries.
But what if we could know? What if, instead of conjecture, there was evidence? What if our culture, as rag-tag as it is, has actually been moving in a faithful, repetitive pattern since the ancient days? And that pattern made the future easier to predict?
Or you can call it the Generational Pendulum. It’s the theory of Wizard Academy’s founder Roy H. Williams, who believes western civilization moves in 80-year predictable cycles.
That means 20-years up, 20-years down, then 20-years in the opposite direction, and 20-years back to the starting point again. Like a grandfather clock pendulum. Back and forth. Up then down. 40 years in one cycle, 40 years in the opposite. It’s a never-ending motion in our culture that may determine everything from the chart topping song at the Grammys to the poll topping politician at the White House.
Explaining the theory, with panache and his legendary quirks, Williams wrote a book on the subject, entitled…wait for it…Pendulum, for release in March 2012.
To understand this theory better, however, we decided to go to a closer source, our chief visionary and CEO Chris Busch, a Wizard Academy graduate and overall good guy.
We met Coach Busch at a Barnes & Noble, via ground-traveling vehicles, where a nonrobot served him coffee and us water.
We would need extra hydration to talk about 2012 and beyond.
Us: Coach Busch, we’re so excited to be here. Also, that coffee smells really good. Moving on. We’ve heard about that Generational Pendulum theory. What is it exactly?
Coach Busch: Coffee is good. You sure you don’t want any?
Us: Yes. Absolutely. Water is so…waterlike.
Coach Busch: The Generational Pendulum theory is based on the idea that 40 years is the time it takes for transformative change.
Us: According to?
Coach Busch: One place is the bible.
Us: Ah, good source.
Coach Busch: The 40-year cycle is recorded throughout the bible – the children of Israel spent 40 years in the desert. When they disobeyed God, they served 40 years captured by Babylon. Saul reigned for 40 years, Solomon reigned for 40 years, on and on this time span has significance. In Roy’s theory, inspired by these and other 40-year cycles, there is 20 years up, 20 years down. That completes one portion of the cycle. Then 20 years up, 20 years down, that completes the other extreme. It takes 80 years to cover the full cycle.
Us: So there are two 40-year cycles. What makes them different from each other?
Coach Busch: One is idealistic, or the ‘Me’ cycle. One is civic, or the ‘We’ cycle.
Us: Can you describe them? Lets start with the ‘Me’ cycle. What can you expect when our culture is all about ‘Me’?
Coach Bush: The ‘Me’ cycle is a time when individualism is valued. People believe they can be anything they want. Duty, responsibility, those things take a back seat to self-fulfillment. Heroes are beloved. And competition is on the rise.
Us: When was the last ‘Me’ cycle?
Coach Busch: It started in 1963, peaked in 1983, and ended in 2003. If you look at the culture, you can see the ‘Me’ cycle emerging. There were alpha voices in the arts and literature in the 50’s. Then, in ’63, the Beatles released their first debut album, ‘Please, Please, Me’. Then you have the indestructible hero, James Bond, who was also introduced that year in Dr. No. It’s also the same year Martin Luther King delivered his ‘I Have A Dream’ speech. This is the time of big dreams and big plans, like going to the moon. Which we did in 1969 while still in that ‘Me’ pendulum swing.
Us: Are there positives during the ‘Me’ cycle?
Coach Busch: Oh sure. The individual is valued. This is the era that Reagan’s rugged individualism took hold. During this cycle, we believe in ourselves. We’re optimistic. We achieve. The sky is the limit. But then, as in all things, it goes too far. Becomes excessive.
Us: So it peaked in 1983.
Coach Busch: Yes. You can see the excesses start about ten years earlier. Everything starts moving toward a very plastic existence. By 1983, you had Madonna and Kiss and outrageousness. That’s when it starts swinging back the other way and takes another twenty years to get there.
Us: Ending in 2003.
Coach Busch: Exactly.
Us: So now, after going from ‘golly, we’re capable’ to ‘forget you, it’s all about me’, we’re headed for the opposite cycle. The ‘We’ cycle, right? What’s distinctive about the ‘We’ cycle?
Coach Busch: The ‘We’ cycle is about authenticity. No phonies. No plasticity. No hype. We want real. Not that that’s what we get, but that’s what we claim we want. We believe for less, expect less. We tend to accept a lower standard of living because it’s the right thing to do. This is the cycle of fairness and equality. People with money should give it up, spread it around. Life is more pessimistic. Heroes fall into disfavor and what we end up with is the anti-hero, those who become a hero by claiming not to be. Those are the ones who are the most destructive.
Us: This sounds familiar.
Coach Busch: The last ‘We’ peaked in 1943, starting in 1923. This was the cycle of the ’29 Stock Market collapse. By 1931, people were working together to help each other through the Great Depression. Then Hitler and the war came. And people were united behind the war. The ‘We’ cycle is where we are now. We’re almost halfway up the peak, which comes in 2023. Then it’ll swing back down and end in 2043.
Us: So what is the cultural emotion during the ‘We’?
Coach Busch: If you think about the 60s Beatles. They were all happy. Hold your hand. She loves you. It’s nothing like today’s hip-hop, which is earthy, authentic, and often excessively negative.
Us: Goodbye ‘Good Day Sunshine.’ Now we know what is happening. But why? What causes this shift?
Coach Busch: Every generation is going to critique their parents’ generation. We think our parents didn’t do it right, so we’ll fix it. So the pendulum swings.
Us: Is one cycle better than the other? They both have their positives and negatives.
Coach Busch: Anything carried to extreme is harmful.
Us: Even caffeine? That coffee really does smell good.
Us: Okay, so we’re in the ‘We’. This obviously comes with a set of operator warnings. What do we need to be aware of? What are the pitfalls?
Coach Busch: The danger in the ‘We’ cycle is that it can get depressing.
Us: Sounds about right.
Coach Busch: People can lose hope that things will ever get better. They self-sacrifice to a fault. Sacrifice becomes so important, while individual achievement is not.
Us: That doesn’t sound good.
Coach Busch: We’re taught to love our neighbor as ourselves. But in the ‘We’ cycle, we can be too busy denying ourselves to love our neighbor. The danger is always in the extreme. We create a culture where individual achievement is empty. And one major cultural shift to look for is the witch hunts. In the ‘We’ generation, there are always witch hunts of one group or another. In 1943, another ‘We’ cycle, there was the extermination of the Jews. In 1863, another ‘We’ cycle, there was the Civil War. So we need to be aware of the cultural mindset to demonize and polarize.
Us: Don’t take this wrong, but this is could be depressing. For churches and ministries, how do they reach an audience who are feeling culturally negative? Being too positive won’t ring true and being negative does nothing but harm. What can ministries do? Anything?
Coach Busch: Of course. Your principles don’t change but sometimes your methods must. Especially with communication. The Apostle Paul, when on Mars Hill in Athens, had totally different methods than when he was in Corinth. He said, ‘I have become all things to all men, that I may by all means save some.’ He adjusted his method.
Here are a few ideas to tweak your communication method:
First, dial down the hype, not the hope. Hype will ring hollow. This isn’t the time for exotic dreams and schemes. Small actions count more than those big dreams.
Us: What does that look like?
Coach Busch: Instead of trying to reach a billion souls, actually feed a hungry family. Small actions carry more weight than big dreams…in a “we” cycle.
Us: That makes sense.
Second, think more collaboratively, less autocratic. Your leading style needs to be more about “us” instead of “you”, the individual. People want to be connected, want to get involved. It makes them feel needed. Right now, they do not value a loner experience.
Us: This is positive stuff.
Thirdly, stress that this is only a season. We change and shift with the cycles. But God doesn’t. There are certain principles that don’t change, like seedtime and harvest, that all good gifts come from God, that He has plans for each of us that are for good and not evil. Avoid the temptation of extremes and stress these things. And remember them for yourself.
Us: Good golly. We’re feeling very upbeat. Any other future predictions Coach Busch? Any flying cars in our future? Sassy robots? Shorter lines at checkout?
Coach Busch: I predict a cup of coffee in your near future.
Us: You never know, Coach. You just never know.