THURSDAY, 5 FEBRUARY 2015
What does 2015 mean? What does it mean that I was born in 1971? And no one except scientists even talks about 2045 or 2055!
It’s been bothering me for some time that these numbered years keep floating in my mind yet I don’t quite know how they fit together. And before I know, the numbers have changed again.
Here is one explanation:
I was born in 1871. It is now 1915, the second calendar year of the Great War. If I can avoid serious misfortune and disease and maintain a fairly healthy lifestyle I can expect to live until roughly the mid-1940s.
That means I was born in the year when Otto von Bismarck led Prussia and allied German states to victory over France and the unification of Germany. As a South African I can talk of my contemporaries Jan Smuts, Louis Botha and Sol Plaatje. On the international scene my contemporaries include Mahatma Gandhi, Franklin Roosevelt, Winston Churchill, Josef Stalin and Vladimir Lenin.
My last days may arrive when I am in my seventies, about the time the Allies defeat the fascists in World War II, or soon after. Should I survive another decade and live until my mid-eighties, I would see in a colour magazine or possibly on black-and-white TV how a young upstart called Elvis Presley shakes his leg like no decent man would have done in my day.
(Acknowledgement for the Bismarck photo: Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-R68588 / P. Loescher & Petsch / CC-BY-SA 3.0)