The Power of Ten




Important things happen at the beginnings of decades. That's my experience, anyway. And since no one has ever definitively determined whether a decade begins on a "zero" year or a "one" year, December 2010 is a fine time to contemplate whatever the next big thing is to be. I'm predicting that we're moving into very interesting days, starting now.

I guess a prophecy like that is pretty low risk. I mean, what are the chances that things are going to start getting dull here in the second decade of the 21st century? And while we're on the topic of the decades, remember back in 2000 when everyone was wondering what we were going to call these years? The Aughts? The Oh-ohs? Did we ever decide? Maybe it takes 10 years for us to stop quibbling and we'll have settled on an affectionate nickname by December 2020.

Anyway, to validate my original thesis I did some investigation with my faithful research assistant, W. I. Kipedia, and learned that I'm mostly wrong. Important stuff happens pretty much constantly at random intervals. But I was able to find three instances from N.H. history that at least made my search worthwhile:

1770 - Dartmouth College opens at Hanover.

1800 - Portsmouth Naval Shipyard is established.

1920 -

Minnesota drops its primary and Indiana changes its primary date to May so the New Hampshire Primary becomes first in the nation (though it didn't gain its reputation as a presidential testing ground until 1952).

Maybe my impression is born from personal experience. My father was also born in 1920, my older brother in 1950 while (most importantly) my beautiful and patient wife was born in 1960. This at least helps me keep tabs on what age everyone is, since math was never my strength. And it means that whenever a decade rolls around, the tumblers on the human odometer roll over for several people close to me.

This year, last month, my dad turned 90. He's doing amazingly well, a few loose bolts and some rattling from the undercarriage, but if he was a used car you could still honestly post him for sale in the classifieds with a pitch like "some rust, runs good."

Obviously we haven't put Dad up for sale, but we did use his impressive collection of decades as an excuse to invite a group of old friends to come and wish him well. Apparently it's hard to turn down an invitation to a 90th birthday, because the friends, many from my generation and the next, came in droves, bringing with them so much good will and so many memories, it's hard to imagine a single life containing it all.

The turn of each decade may be just another year, but the power of ten has magic just the same. The zero at the end of the date is like a full stop on a sentence of civilization. It's a reminder to reflect on progress made and what remains to be achieved. It's also a great time to count your blessings.

And here as the Two-thousands (or whatever we'll wind up calling them) are passing, that's probably a beneficial exercise for everyone to undertake, no matter how many decades old or young you are.

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