On Time

Copyright 1995 by Teresa Nielsen Hayden. 

Our best guess for Jesus of Nazareth's actual birth date is 4 B.C. So forget that impending two-triple-ought impostor; if the US Post Office is planning to issue Jesus a bimillennial commemorative, 1996 is the year to do it.

The turn of a millennium can't help but be distracting. Look, it's Twenty-First Century! Bring on the blasters and personal hovercars! A pocketful of plastic credits for everyone! (Actually, a lot of us already have a pocketful of plastic credit. Only thing the scientifictionists got wrong was, they used the plural instead of the singular.)

I hereby predict that about five years from now there will be a really dire run of of magazine articles about how the year 2000 (ditto 2001) doesn't match up to all our fears and expectations. I further predict that the writers will find that this confirms everything they'd already believed anyway, and that as a result they shall think themselves very profound.

The future will take us by surprise. It always does. I am, among other things, a professional science fiction editor, and I say that this is so. And by the way, I don't recollect any of those pricey mediagenic '80s futurologists having much to say about the Internet, or any number of other major developments of the last several years. (Ever notice how few prophets, psychics, and asst'd visionaries have long-lasting careers?)

Just as well. I wouldn't want to live in Tomorrowland, where the social patterns and infrastructure are all so spiff and modern and rational and well-designed that any remaining problems must needs be insoluble, and so a cause for despair. And I'm not any fonder of the idea that we're living on the tattered, weary, played-out edge of postmodern time.

My own personal theory is that this is the very dawn of the world. We're hardly more than an eyeblink away from the fall of Troy, and scarcely an interglaciation removed from the Altamira cave painters. We live in extremely interesting ancient times.

I like this idea. It encourages us to be earnest and ingenious and brave, as befits ancestral peoples; but keeps us from deciding that because we don't know all the answers, they must be unknowable and thus unprofitable to pursue.

Hey, anything that justifies having adventures...