We are uniquely privileged. Past ages have looked forward to the future, but we are the first people to actually live in it. Past ages have wondered what that future would hold, but we are the first to really know. Past ages have stood on the threshold of a new millennium, but we have stepped through and can breath the green grass on the other side, provided we don't inhale.
What an awesome responsibility!
When I was a child, I spake as a child, I reasoned as a child. Adults would often speak about the kind of world that they hoped to leave to the next generation, or possibly Voyager. My parents would talk about the kind of society which I would one day inherit. My teachers strove to give me the best possible start in life because I was the future of the human race, so shut up and eat your greens.
Now, at the beginning of this my third decade—what a pivotal moment in my life, what a once in a lifetime birthday—I am no longer the next generation. I am no longer the future. I am the present and the future is now. I have come into my inheritance and having paid the crippling death duties, the world is mine, all mine, to do as I wish with and I intend to enjoy it which is after all what my old dad would have wanted.
Tomorrow belongs to me. Yesterday's gone, sweet Jesus, and all our yesterdays have lighted fools the way to dusty death. Why she had to go, I don't know, she wouldn't say. Now, then, is the time to make resolutions; millennial resolutions to exploit this blank sheet, this fresh start.
I have three resolutions. No: call them rather three wishes, three hopes, three principles which I believe will become the guiding beacons for the next thousand years of my life. Join me in uniting behind them.
My first new idea is truth. Not lies, not falsehoods, but truth. Thanks to the advances of science, there is more truth today than there ever was before. Bad people—fundamentalists, bigots, people who read the Independent On Sunday—tell us that there is only one truth; that if something is A then it cannot be B. But that is a way of thinking which belongs in the past. Everything is true. Nothing is true. Everything is true and not true. This way of looking at things has been called post-modern, but in truth, it is para-modern, and we must all embrace it.
Secondly, goodness; or rather, the good. Let us all, for the next thousand years, resolve to be good; let us go further and promise that we shall not be bad. For surely, stripped of doctrine and dogma, this simple belief in goodness is the one, single, absolute truth which is shared by all religions all the world over.
Thirdly, the Internet; this magnificent, futuristic edifice to man's achievement which I understand can be accessed via some of the more modern electrical typewriters. In the 20th century, a man who wanted an episode guide for The X-Files or a source of sado-masochistic pornography had to go into a bookshop or library; but in the 21st century, the information superhighway has freed us from the narrow elitism of the printed word; such information is available, free, to everyone who owns a sufficiently fast personal computer. And make no mistake: this will become increasingly pivotal to the information based economy on which our future prosperity depends. In the 20th century, wealth consisted in building pyramids and sending small boys up chimneys; but in the 21st, the primary way in which our nation will support itself is though on-line commerce, such as the successful Amazon.com a sophisticated on-line mail order company through which one can order books.
Truth; goodness; the Internet. Forward looking; futuristic; experimental; daring. But if we do not embrace new ideas like these then the future in which we live might be no different from the past which we have left. And that, surely, would be the real tragedy: to wake up on January 1st, reeling perhaps from having drunk one to many fireworks: could you live with yourself if the world had not changed?
Before I close, let me add a personal note. It is my prayer—I don't of course mean an old fashioned 20th century prayer which you expect anyone to answer—that truth, goodness and the Internet may together lead to a rediscovery of the lost spiritual dimension in all of our lives. When I was younger, there was much more spirituality. Everyone was spiritual. My Grandmother god rest her soul was one of the most spiritual people I ever knew. She even made her own jam. But we've lost that kind of thing. Young people used to go out on a Friday night and be spiritual, but now they go to the pub instead.
By spirituality, I don't, of course, mean the sort of thing which used to happen in churches, monasteries, meditation retreats and the Body Shop. In the 20th century churches focused on gods, prayers, rituals, and consciousness raising exercises involving crystals. But in the 21st century people will re-discover the roots of true spirituality: eating pizza with friends; giving money to beggars, or refraining from doing so as conscience dictates; watching television; taking drugs; listening to "compact discs". If we can take the challenge to do these things (and people stuck in the past will say that they are too futuristic) then there will be revival in this community—for surely, my brethren, when the word "spiritual" is applied to absolutely everything, then absolutely everything will be spiritual, including materialism.
Till then, endureth truth, goodness and the Internet, these three. And the greatest of these is the Internet.