We are living in interesting times to say the least—pandemic, severe economic weakness, elevated racial tensions, protesting and rioting in the streets and more. Most of us receive a constant barrage of information from whatever screen we’re looking at and what news source we’re paying attention to. Social media is an echo-chamber of specious, often flat misleading information. I even read a recent Wall Street Journal article about “Doomscrolling” (new term to me) and our obsession with stressful news. So I thought an email I received today was worth sharing. I also have a 103 year-old grandmother who, having lived through almost everything described below, can attest to the saying that, this too shall pass. I once asked her what the Great Depression was like and she responded to me that, while it was a only vague memory to her at this point, she pointedly noted that "I knew we would get through it."
P E R S P E C T I V E
It’s a mess out there now. Hard to discern between what’s a real threat and what is just simple panic and hysteria.
For a small amount of perspective at this moment, imagine you were born in 1900.
On your 14th birthday, World War I starts and ends on your 18th birthday. 22 million people perish in that war.
Later in the year, a Spanish Flu epidemic hits the planet and runs until your 20th birthday. 50 million people die from it in those two years. Yes, 50 million.
On your 29th birthday, the Great Depression begins. Unemployment hits 25%, the World GDP drops 27%. That runs until you are 33. The country nearly collapses along with the world economy.
When you turn 39, World War II starts. You aren’t even over the hill yet. And don’t try to catch your breath. On your 41st birthday, the United States is fully pulled into WWII. Between your 39th and 45th birthday, 75 million people perish in the war.
Smallpox was epidemic until you were in your 40’s, as it killed 300 million people during your lifetime.
At 50, the Korean War starts. 5 million perish.
From your birth, until you are 55 you dealt with the fear of Polio epidemics each summer. You experience friends and family contracting polio and being paralyzed and/or die.
At 55 the Vietnam War begins and doesn’t end for 20 years. 4 million people perish in that conflict.
During the Cold War, you lived each day with the fear of nuclear annihilation.
On your 62nd birthday you have the Cuban Missile Crisis, a tipping point in the Cold War. Life on our planet, as we know it, almost ended.
When you turn 75, the Vietnam War finally ends.
Think of everyone on the planet born in 1900. How did they endure all of that? If you were a kid in 1985 you may have thought your 85-year-old grandparent didn’t understand how hard school was. And how mean that kid in your class was. Yet they survived everything listed above.
Perspective is an amazing and valuable gift. Refined and enlightening as time goes on. Let’s try to keep things in perspective.
*I checked the figures cited in the email via Google searches and they appear to be accurate.