Weekly Wire
Weekly Alibi What Millennium? You Missed It!

By Harry Willson

DECEMBER 20, 1999:  Ballyhoo about the new millennium has reached fever pitch, even though the new century and the new millennium are still one year and two weeks away. Celebration 2000, Holy Year 2000, Times Square 2000, Earth Day 2000, Expo 2000, and The Millennium Society have all been up and running for more than a year. People we know have already left town for round-the-world millennium cruises.

The year 2000 will be the final year of the 20th century and of the second millennium. The year when all the digits change, from 1999 to 2000, is not really the new millennium yet. But who cares? If PR and media frenzy can get people to part with their hard-earned cash, there are those who are ready to go for it!

Old stories tell us that as Europe passed from the first millennium to the second, back during the last years of the 990s, fear more than PR blather filled the minds of most people. The world was surely coming to an end, it was supposed, and in spite of all the doctrines which told how to prepare 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 number, 1000. Scholars have since found little evidence of that supposed panic, and trace those stories to pro-Christian propaganda from several centuries later.

The origin of the numbering system is quite revealing. In the 6th century a Christian monk named Dionysius Exiguous 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. In selecting which year to label the Year One, A.D., the year in which Jesus was born, Dionysius made a mistake and picked the wrong year. Herod the Great, the Roman-appointed king of Judea, killed all the baby boys in Bethlehem in an attempt to exterminate the newly born "king of the Jews." All historical sources agree that Herod died in the year which Dionysius labeled 4 B.C. According to the Gospel of Matthew, 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., or earlier. The 2000th anniversary of his birth was several years 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, atheists 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 also wonder at all this hoopla about the millennium. They know that 2000 is 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 which we use also, perhaps unknowingly), the Year 2000 is written as 11111010000. There's nothing special about it. The computer, and systems that depend on the computer, may be in trouble because the programmers of 40 years ago didn't specify carefully which Christian century they were in. Perhaps, since so many of them worked for extremely destructive governments, they never dreamed that civilization and humanity would last until the year 2000. But here we are, with Y2K problems and fears, one full year ahead of "the new millennium."

In Base Eight, which octopi will use when they take over the world and all its civilizations, 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 equaling what we're used to calling 10.

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 is stirring up deep mythic feelings, and much balderdash. Maybe this awareness of the relativity of it all will be good for us, as humanity goes into another of its fits of nonsense. Reasonable people can tell the most manic of the others, "What millennium? You missed it!"


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