Technically there is no significance to the new millennium. Sophisticated forms of civilization have been in existence for at least 6,000 years. Human societies have been in existence for much longer than that. The calendar which numbers this year 2000 is based on the birth of Christ as the definitive moment in western civilization. While this may be true, it is a moment which came late in the game, relatively speaking. The United States of America, at 224 years old, is a mere infant in comparison with Ancient Egypt , an empire which reigned for four millennia.
All calendars are based on stellar cycles. We have evidence that the ancients were tracking the 26,000 year cycle of the precession of the Equinox through the signs of the Zodiac (back in the 70s when everyone was talking about the Age of Aquarius, this is what they were talking about. Precession through each sign takes roughly 2,000 years.) The significance of the lion, bull and ram during different ages is associated with the precession of the Equinox through the signs of Leo, Taurus and Aries. New archeological discoveries (one of the most recent being the discovery of Osiris Tomb beneath the Giza Plateau) continue to show us that many of the old stories we call myths are based in fact. In the past 20 years there has been credible research that suggests that the Sphinx is 5,000 to 10,000 years older than we currently believe. Our culture is the blink of an eye in comparison with the overall development of humanity.
The significance of the new millennium is strictly societal, but as such, it reflects our overall consciousness. We recognize our zeros, whether they mark decades, centuries or millennia, as a way to acknoledge time. We mark the end of a cycle and stop to reflect and define ourselves. We see a new zero, whether it be a new decade, a new century or the current new millennium, as an opportunity for rebirth. We can see this cycle occurring in the history of western culture. As a century progresses, its images, (especially evident in the visual arts) also mature, bringing increased sophistication, becoming over ripe and finally reaching a point of decadence. The new century brings in a rebirth of optimism and a new perspective.
I believe that the 20th Century has been a renaissance which will later be recognized much as we now recognize the advances of the 16th Century. Technological advances which have occurred over the last few decades faster than we can adapt to them have made life increasingly complicated while bringing increased pressures. I firmly believe that the current fin de siecle malaise is a result of the lack of security that these changes engender. Our advances have been bought at a high psychological and sociological price.
If you question this just stop a moment to consider the important landmarks in your life, what what happens to you inside when they are bulldozed for progress. How you feel when your parents sell the house you grew up in and move to that well-deserved condo in Florida and you can never go Home for Christmas again. When your favorite teacher finally retires and is no longer available to marvel at how successful you have become, despite your preadolescent scraped knees and irreparable spelling deficiencies. Also take a moment to imagine the the way going to your 20th high school reunion, visiting a childhood friend, or going home to Grandma's gives you an instant sense of security and rootedness. It connects us with our past. Having a home base that we can return to again and again makes us more confident of our own future. when we are in crisis, we want to go to that place, that person who is Home to us. Many societies had ancestral homes which remained in families for centuries (Imagine an Egyptian viewing the Great Pyramids when they were 1000 years young and being secure in the knowledge that they had a way of life that they could count on) In America today, many families don't live in the same house for 10 years. It is almost unheard of for a family to live in the same house for 50.
We are currently at the highest point of tension within this dilemma, where life is moving so fast that it is taking our past with it and creating increasing alienation. We have become emotional nomads. We can see this with the massive problem of addiction and with the current emphasis on simplifying ones life, an idea which took root in this past decade. We see it in the church burnings and school shootings of the past several years. Personally, I do not see our answer in going back. I am in love with the idea that I can communicate with anyone in the world in a matter of seconds through my home computer, at less than the price of a postage stamp. I like being able to watch movies over an over again on my VCR so that I can come to fully appreciate the fine detail of crafting that movie. My Dog, Beez, especially likes eating freshly cooked hamburger every night, courtesy of my freezer and microwave. I emphatically appreciate being born in an age where technology makes it possible for an individual to live independently, so that they are free to choose their professional and personal life out of desire and preference instead of survival.
If we hold on, we will see the cycle born again, as has occurred in centuries past. We will see a new optimism born, and a shift in our perspective. The only shift which can resolve the current dilemma is a spiritual one, one that will help us to find our own center in the larger picture of of a rapidly changing life and allow us to ride the winds of change with the same sense of serenity as that ancient Egyptian felt at the base of the pyramid.
I believe this spiritual shift will occur. I believe the 21st century will bring us to a new place of progress in human terms, where we can let go of our fears and embrace the amazing kaleidoscope that life has become, and where simplicity is a state of mind , not an external condition. 100 years ago the decadent and alienated voice of Huysman's* Against Nature gave way to the pure spirit of abstraction. Over the last 20 years I have watched art increasingly reflect cynicism and cultural angst, whether in the ivory towers of universities or the popular culture of movies and music (my typing tutor software has a game that rewards correct keyboarding by bopping cute animal characters on the head. If that is not cynicism and cultural angst, I don't know what is). I have kept my eye on the beginning of this new cycle. New Leaf, with its simple message of faith in humanity, heralds the hope this new millennium brings.
*Jo Face, please forgive me if I got the authors name wrong. I hope you will also forgive me for never finishing the book, but after 2 chapters, I just couldnt take any more.