With A View from the 21st Century

By David Kessler

In this installment: Sign her up for "Harbingers Anonymous".  With a view from the 21st Century.

One of my funnier media-memories from working at the Center for Millennial Studies is a reporter who wanted to know if she could call Jan 1, 2000 the new millennium with mathematical certainty.  I gave the answers you may already know by heart about "millennium" having different definitions, and about how the lack of a "year zero" in our present system means that all our eras counted from the start of the calendar must begin with 1.  She was a little disappointed and remarked that at least she could still write that it was a new century.

I explained that, actually, the no year zero argument for 2000 not being a new millennium meant that the century too had to wait for 2001 to change.  Again disappointed, she fell back on her last hope - she would hail 2000 as a new decade.

I explained, a little painfully to us both, that the mathematical standard that made 2001 the start of a new millennium and century, also applied to decades.

There was a pause on the phone before she asked her next question.  "Then what can I call this coming year?"  I earnestly suggested that calling it "The Year 2000" carried at least as much force and weight as the start of a new age.  She wasn't completely convinced, so I noted how poetic round numbers are, how easily they stir our imaginations, and how most every Science Fiction author for the past century had used 2000 synonymously with "The Future".

I never saw her article, so I don't know if I convinced her.

Now it's the year 2001 - Year of the new decade, century, and millennium.  There were parties and fireworks, but compared to other New Year's Eves it was nothing out of the ordinary (my apologies to all the Arthur C. Clarke fans out there).  We just didn't get excited about the coming of 2001 the way we did about 2000.  "It's the new millennium?  Big deal; It's not like it's the year 2000 or anything!"

Before 2000, purists scoffed at the idea that it was the millennium, and then rolled their eyes when it was referred to as a "psychological, or popular millennium".  Sure it sounded a little trite, but having now seen the preparations and celebrations for both it and the "true" millennium of 2001, it's a fair assessment.  The meaning, the expectation, the hope, the fear, and the hype all came from our minds.  And for the most part we enjoyed it.

So here's to the imagination that gives meaning to the smallest and the largest of numbers, seizing on any change in the odometer to help us mark the passage of time with such gusto.  And let's hope we're fooled again!

Happy 2001 to you all and especially to that reporter, wherever she is - I hope she got a good article out of it all.

Return to the Writings Page

Main Page       Language/Logistics       Resumé       Writings       Calligraphy       Theatre       Music       Wushu       Photo Galleries       Contact

This page was designed by and belongs to David Kessler - All Rights Reserved.