We are almost there. The new millennium is just around the corner. What will the New Year, century, and millennium bring us? Gloom and doom? Nuclear War? The end of human kind? The Second Coming? I'm going out on a literary limb with my prediction that as the calendar changes, we will hardly notice the transition. The world won't end and the Y2K bug won't cause a global meltdown and plunge us into a second Dark Age. You may be asking, "Why am I so sure that we will enter the new millennium without much of a hitch?" Here are several reasons why you can rest tonight without much fear and trembling over the future.
As I pointed out in this column last year at this time, we are already in the new millennium by several years. In the 6th century, a monk named Dennis the Diminutive made a calculation error resulting in Christ's birth being erroneously set about 3 or 4 BC. Therefore, if the world was going to end with the arrival of the new millennium, it should have ended a couple of years ago. So we can relax; God isn't going to pull the plug yet. As for Y2K, there may be some minor computer problems especially in the developing nations, but we won't grind to a halt and have to live on stored supplies for months of chaos and confusion.
Finally, history provides me a perspective upon the future. George Orwell in the late 40s wrote his dire predictions of what the world would be like in the year 1984. We have managed to muddle through, survive, and even conquer many of Orwell's fears. 1984 no longer brings us dread fear of the future. However, many of us stand on the brink of a new millennium filled with fears that Orwell could ever have dreamt. As a result, many have become victims of our apprehension and terror. The epiphany of the millennium is seen by some as the harbinger of hardship. William Faulkner said nearly fifty years ago when accepting the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1950. "I decline to accept the end of man...He is immortal, not because he alone among creatures has an inexhaustible voice, but because he has a soul, a spirit capable of compassion and sacrifice and endurance...It is the (writer's) privilege to help man endure by lifting his heart, by reminding him of the courage and honor and hope and pride and compassion and pity and sacrifice which have been the glory of his past."
I believe that Faulkner is correct about us. Human beings have survived for at least a hundred and twenty-five thousand years-give or take a millennium or two. The beginning of the third millennium isn't going to usher in a time of tribulation. We have struggled against ice ages and wild animals with only caves and clubs to protect us. During the Middle Ages, human beings survived the Black Death. Easily a third of Europe died as a result of that plague and yet we went on. We have overcome the devastation of wars, starvation, fires, and floods. Human beings have an uncanny knack to persevere against overwhelming odds that at the time seemed a certain death sentence to the human race.
While we don't have much to fret about as the clock ticks off the remaining moment of the millennium, we can learn from this. In a less macrocosmic way, we can glean from this millennium madness several important themes as we face our personal problems. After you recover from celebrating the new millennium, remember these following observations:
1. Human beings are survivors. Since we are a part of humankind, we also are survivors. When facing your crises of life, remember that the end of our story-we can persevere. With that knowledge, we can go back to the battles of life and attack them with confidence and courage.
2. Human beings are adaptive. Life isn't always clear sailing. There are obstacles that stop, stall, or derail us. However, we can learn from our failures, regroup, and then try again. We have emotional and physical resilience.
3. Don't panic. History is with us. Time and again, human beings have suffered and ultimately succeeded when success was apparent only to the bravest among us. Fight the good fight and have a great New Year and new millennium.
This article first appeared in the Dixon Telegraph on December 30, 1999.