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Polis Report

Starting Over

By Richard Sine

Some deep thinkers say that big ker-chunk of the global odometer you'll hear in about three years will be anticlimactic if it's only numbered 2000. Like metaphysical used-car salesmen, they want to fiddle under the dash, renumbering the Year 2000 to Year Zero.

To that end, Alan Dechert, recently of Mountain View, has published the Year Zero Calendar, which declares "A New Millennium: A New Era." The calendar features really deep quotes by Nietzsche, Confucius and the like, along with pictures of really deep places like Stonehenge and the Grand Canyon.

Dechert points out there was no original Year Zero; back then they used Roman numerals, which have no zero. So the first year was "One." Which means the tenth year was Eleven, and so on. So the Millennium actually begins in 2001. Year Zero clears up this problem.

On a higher plane, Year Zero backers say it will wipe the slate clean and shed spiritual and historical baggage. Our calendar is still tied to the birth of Jesus, even though most people in the world aren't Christian, notes Richard Landes, a Boston University historian and co-founder of the Center for Millennial Studies. He calls Year Zero "a way to unify and date the advent of this global culture."

The Year Zero folks admit that we still label what we don't like a "real zero." They say it's about time we gave zero more respect. Dechert points out that computers, key tools of the global village, think in binary terms of zero and one.

Not convinced? Well, Eastern religions put emptiness next to godliness. What number is more Zen than zero? Dechert calls Year Zero "a clarion call that it is a time to act." For some, that might mean marching the streets; for others, sitting lotus-legged before some of the soothing images in the Year Zero calendar.

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From the November 21-27, 1996 issue of Metro

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