Then I saw 2001. It was not what I expected. It had none of the swashbuckling romance of Star Wars, yet I remember being fascinated with it. In 1979, a decade after it's release, 2001's special effects held up well to movies of the day and they were exciting to watch, but that was only part of the appeal. What really caught my imagination was its immediacy (probably not the way I would have described it back then).
Nevertheless, it was a movie about a time that I would come to see. I did the math and figured out how old I would be when there would be space stations spinning around the earth and manned missions to Jupiter. It was amazing to think that I might see these things come to pass, even if it was at the impossible ancient age of 34.
2001 did not take place in some galaxy far, far away, nor did it take place centuries into the future, as did Star trek. No, the place and time when these things did come to pass had been fixed and one day we would arrive at that date.
So here we are living in the year 2001, I guess you could say I'm a little disappointed. Okay, it's not like I hadn't seen it coming for a few years now. The future was fast approaching, but it wasn't the future I was expecting (well was anyone?).
As the millennium came and went (2000, 2001 take your pick) we were treated ad nauseum to comedians monologues about the absence of jet packs and flying cars, and all the other things we were promised by Popular Mechanics back in the 70s.
But for me it underlined something more serious. As a child I had never really imagined an era past 2001. Pretty short sighted, some might say. And possibly the only other people who feel this way are those in doomsday cults who predicted the apocalypse would come either at the end of or the beginning of the next millennium (whenever that might have been). It's not like I was expecting or even hoping for the end of the world, it's just that suddenly the future has arrived, so now what?
Arthur C. Clarke prophesied in his book that we would be at the beginning of a great new epoch in history. Unfortunately no sentient monoliths have turned up on Earth or in space to help propel us to the next level of evolution. Obviously reality has been a lot less Earth shattering (stupid reality).
As I said, it's not like I didn't see it coming, but now the future is here and I'm faced with the unknown; there is no longer any point on the horizon to aim for. Maybe this is part of why there was something of a backlash against year 2000 celebrations (talk about not living up to hype). The odometer clicked over and people realized, well that's great, but life goes on.
But after a little reflection I do find getting past this milestone liberating. I am faced with the unknown (well of course I always was), but it was important to realize that time and dates actually have little importance to human events. We are all going to get older and eventually cease to be all-together, so why worry about it? I just have to take care of all the stuff in between.
I suppose this reasoning seems obvious to a lot of people, although it is easier than one might think to get hung up on artificially designated points in time. For instance at various stages in my life friends and acquaintances have said to me, I have to have sex before I'm 18, I have to be married by 30, I have to have this much money by 40, I have to retire by 60. Well it's great to have a plan, it's just that they don't always work out, so que sera sera.
Anyway I'm glad that 2001 is finally here, even if I can't book a stay at an orbiting Hilton hotel. I'm glad that I made it to the future and now I can stop thinking about what will be and just get on with it.