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Jewish World Review Jan. 26, 1999 /19 Shevat, 5760

Bob Greene

Bob Greene
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Y3K already? We haven't yet recovered from Y2K -- Do you think we could all agree to do each other a favor right now?

The world is filled with enough worries -- do you think we could agree not to worry about this one particular thing?

I refer to the year 3000 -- specifically, to how we wish to be remembered in 3000.

The subject comes up because there have been several attempts in recent weeks to get us -- as we pass through these early days of the new millennium -- to start putting little thought-packages together as a gift to the men, women and children who will be here 1,000 years from now.

The idea, as I understand it, is that we should, as a people, prepare presents for the people of the year 3000. That, as our millennial project, we should explain what is important to us, what we are accomplishing -- that when the year 3000 dawns, the people who are alive then should know what mattered to us in 2000.

A lovely sentiment--but, in the exhausted morning-after of Y2K, do we really need to be thinking about this? Having just summed up the last millennium, do we need to begin summing ourselves up for the next?

Because here's a hint:

They aren't going to care.

The people of the year 3000 will be just about as interested in us as we are in the people of 1000. Meaning: not very.

Being, as you may have noticed, a rather self-absorbed species, our collective interest tends to center on the things with which we are familiar. That is why, when the last millennium was being considered during the final months of 1999, an overwhelming preponderance of attention was paid to the 20th Century. Lots of talk about JFK and FDR and World Wars I and II and the invention of radio and television and the rise of the motorcar -- relatively little talk about anything that came before.

Do you think that the people of the year 3000 will be any different -- do you think that human nature will have changed so much by then that, as the next millennium arrives, those people will want to talk and think not about the leaders and events of their lifetime, but of ours?

Oh, you say, but we're such so fascinating these days -- what we are doing is so intriguing, so compelling. History is being made right now -- certainly the people of 3000 will want to dwell on us.


Let's face it -- in terms of the year 2000 and all the millennial summing-up that's been going on, because we're here right now we can tell ourselves that the events of our lifetimes are what matter.

But we're going to be blips in the year 3000 -- afterthoughts.

Consider these events, which took place in the first 50 years of the last millennium. They are parallel to what we're living through now -- by the year 3000, the events of our lives will have as much meaning to people as the events listed here have to us:

Basil II defeated the Bulgarians at Vidin.

Rudolph III of Burgundy appointed Henry II as his heir.

Ethelred invaded South Wales.

Pisa annexed Corsica.

Takayoshi founded the Tosa school of painting.

Guido d'Arezzo introduced solmization.

Jaroslav of Kiev founded Dorpat.

The caliphate of Cordoba was abolished.

Anselm of Canterbury was born.

Siward murdered Eardwulf and became sole ruler of Northumbria.

English monks mastered embroidery.

Mahmud of Ghazni defeated the Hindus at Peshawar.

Sancho of Navarre took Castile.

Hardicanute, son of Canute, was given control of Denmark.

Polyphonic singing replaced Gregorian chants.

Now . . . did you find yourself talking much about those things in 1999, as the old millennium ended and you were ruminating about the most influential people and events?

Probably not. But in the early days of the last millennium, those all were stop-the-presses items. Except there were no presses (which, come to think of it, may be the case in 3000).

So why don't we all slow down. We're not going to matter. The people we are so entranced with right now -- Steve Case of AOL, Bill Gates of Microsoft, George W. Bush and Bill Bradley and Al Gore and John McCain -- will hold as much interest to the people of 3000 as . . .

Well, as Hardicanute or Ethelred or Sancho of Navarre do to us.

Relax. The pressure's off -- we're free. Enjoy it.

JWR contributor Bob Greene is a novelist and columnist. Send your comments to him by clicking here.


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