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"What Millennium? You Missed it!"

      Ballyhoo about the new millennium has started already and
will build to something far greater in the next few years.
Celebration 2000, Holy Year 2000, Times Square 2000, Earth Day
2000, Expo 2000, Olympics 2000, World Millennium Charity Balls,
and The Millennium Society are all up and running, and that's
just the beginning.  The PR industry will crank itself up to new
unimaginable frenzies of exaggeration and unreality.
     As Europe passed from the first millennium to the second,
back the last years of the 990's, fear more than PR blather
filled the minds of most people.  The world was surely coming to
an end, and in spite of all the doctrines of preparation for such
a thing, people were not ready and could not be made ready.  Many
panicked, and some surely felt foolish when time and tide and
life itself kept right on going on, in spite of that new magic
     A Christian monk, named Dionysius Exiguous, in the 6th
century, had invented the idea of numbering the years from the
date of Jesus' birth.  Anno Domini, in Dionysius' language, means
"the year of the Lord."  The years before the date of the birth of
Jesus were numbered backward, as negative numbers, and were
called simply, B.C. [before Christ].
     It was a brilliant idea, from Dionysius' Christian
perspective on the meaning of life, and time.  There is just one
minor problem -- Dionysius made a mistake.  He picked the wrong
year to label the Year One, A.D.  Herod the Great, the king of
Judea, in the story of the Three Magi in the Gospel
according to Matthew, killed all the baby boys in Bethlehem in an
attempt to exterminate the newly born "king of the Jews."  He died in
the year 4 B.C.  All the historical records are very clear about
that.  Jesus was born before Herod died; his family fled with him
to Egypt to elude Herod's murdering soldiers.
     So -- Jesus was born in the year 4 B.C.  The 2000th anniversary of
his birth was less than a month ago, and the world paid little
attention.  We missed it!
     Maybe it's just as well.  The calendar thing is very
strange, anyway.  How can it matter to Buddhists, Taoists,
Shintoists, Druids, animists and Mammon-worshippers exactly when
the hero/god of the Christians [or an unofficial rabbi of the
Jews, or a minor prophet of the Muslims] was born?
     Mathematicians must wonder at all this hoopla about the
millennium, also.  They know it's only a special number in Base
Ten.  It's not special in and of itself, not cosmically, one
could say.
     In Base Two, which computers use, and we all use also, even
though perhaps unknowingly, the Year 2000 is written as
11111010000.  There's nothing special about it.
     In Base Eight, which octopi will use when they take over the
world and all its civilization, the Year 2000 is written as 3720.
     In Base Twelve, which ancient Babylonians used and almost
made predominant over the Base Ten people, the Year 2000 is
written as 11X8, with X equalling what we're used to calling ten.
     In Base Twenty, which the Maya use, and which makes almost as
much sense as Base Ten, counting toes as well as fingers, the
Year 2000 is written as 500.
     The millennium fever will stir up deep mythic feelings, and
much balderdash.  Maybe this awareness of the relativity of it
all will do us good, as humanity goes into another of its fits of
nonsense.  You can tell the most manic of them, "What millennium?
You missed it!"
* * *
Copyright © 1997 Harry Willson

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