Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The Emergence of the Third Millennium

The introduction to an important book published in 1999 began in the following way:

“The millennium is the most momentous calendar event any of us will live through. Yet despite the attention lavished upon it, nothing is more certain that that its true significance will be missed. This misperception is itself evidence of the intellectual fog under which we labor. We are incapable of apprehending the meaning of the most massively obvious events. How can our public celebrations bear any meaningful relation to the knot of time through which we are passing, if we have no credible sense of what is being marked? Are we celebrating a merely empty numerical sum? Or does something of more consequence lie behind that intriguing row of zeros? We know how to celebrate the new year, the new decade, even the new century. But a new millennium? There we are in unfamiliar territory, and the impending arrival is more than a little intimidating. No proximate generation will have such a moment to inaugurate…

“This generation is charged with beginning a new age. We have been granted the opening of the third millennium of our history, thereby stamping it with a character that will remain more visible than the imprints of many less strategically placed cohorts. Thus, it is not the celebration that is daunting, but its aftermath… Business as usual reassures us that life will continue pretty much as it has. Little of the apocalyptic excitement we know from the beginning of previous millennia seems to be in the air. Or perhaps it is merely building subterraneously to be unleashed in a volcanic eruption. An eerie calm seems to characterize our lack of preparations. Sooner or later, however, that will be shattered as we are gripped by the stature of the historical shift we are entering. The advent of a new millennium cannot be overlooked forever, and eventually it will take us into its grip. Then our disorientation will be complete. How will we be able to sustain our precarious entry into a new era if we have lost our sense of what the transition means.”

And then came 9/11, and the election of November 4, 2008!!

[1] David Walsh, “The Thrid Millennium: Reflections on Faith and Reason” Georgetown University Press (1999) 1-2.

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