Our planet's odometer is in a period of change. You know, the odometer that
was reset to zero, by the factory, nearly 2,000 years ago. Well, if you
take a look at the figure on the right, you'll see that the "six"
has just been replaced by a "seven". But it's the left-hand figure
that's getting ready for a really big change.
There's the number "one", that's been showing as long as any of
us can remember. Just a bit of the base of the "one" is still
showing at the top of the counter. The number "two" at the bottom
is becoming more visible. Three years from now it will fill the space.
I think I can safely say, that every one of us was born toward the end of
the present millennium. The majority of us will pass over (as they used
to say) in the early part of the next. That makes us what I'll call spanners
- our lives will span two millennia. And there are close to six billion
The last group of spanners was much smaller. Of course no exact figures
can be computed for the year one thousand, but the world's population could
easily have been counted in the millions.
Among those millions were the Viking explorers of North America - Eric the
Red and Lief Ericsson, Hungary's Saint Henry I, Byzantium's Empress Zoë,
Germany's Conrad II, and England's King Ethelred the Unready. We'll have
a look at some of these from time to time. But today's spanner comes from
the Far East.
We don't know her real name, but we do know she was born about the year
978, in the 30-year reign of Japan's Fujiwara emperor Michinaga, another
spanner. It was an era when military families were gradually gaining control
of the country and Japan was beginning to acquire a literature of its own
- not borrowed from the Chinese.
Under the pseudonym Murasaki Shikibu, this widowed noblewoman used her first
hand knowledge of the imperial court to write a 54-chapter story about Hikaru
Genji, a handsome aristocrat, describing his romances, his wives and his
children, all against a highly-detailed portrait of the Fujiwara court.
She also left a diary behind, after her death, around the year 1014. But
she is best remembered for her Tale of Genji, considered by many to be the
first fully-realized novel in history.
For Classical ninety-one five, this is David Minor.
© 1996 David Minor / Eagles Byte
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