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Inside NCR

An invitation NCR to launch Message in a Bottle

A few months from now, there will be an issue of NCR dated Dec. 31, 1999-Jan. 7, 2000. That’s an extraordinary date. Whether we are, by then, giddy with the euphoria of sailing on into uncharted eons, or weary of the hype and worried about Y2K survival, a newspaper that straddles two millennia must surely be a collector’s item.

Despite all that will already have been said or done or written, many are likely to want one last word. Or one first one. Because none of us will ever see such a time again.

Read on, then, because NCR is giving readers a last chance.

We propose a special supplement, a time capsule. We will put our aspirations and apprehensions and resolutions and hopes in a bottle, real or metaphorical, and send them on some sea into the vast future.

Even though the date be arbitrary, crossing this invisible threshold is a monumental step for humankind. Although our time-bound bodies must plod across that line on the stroke of midnight, the spirit is free to leap back and forth, to soar and aspire.

Although this has been the most exciting century since time began (well, OK, with the possible exception of that first hot hundred years right after the Big Bang), we nevertheless find ourselves exhausted as we struggle and stagger up to this signpost, a little confused, or a lot; we know we should be sailing on a sea of exhilaration but find ourselves up to here in ennui and perplexity.

I think that, with the first sunrise of the millennium, if we get up early and are not suffering from a hangover, we will look out on a whole new world created by hope that, era after era, stands repeatedly on its hind legs and defies destiny and grabs grace out of thin air.

It will all make sense, if only for a brief moment, on Jan.1, 2000. Faced with another thousand years, which in turn will remind us of other millennia yet to be, we will raise our eyes higher, spread our embrace wider. We will be downright convinced that people have to be friendlier, braver, more compassionate just to survive as a race for another thousand years and more. Not just survive, either -- the day after the old millennium, the world will look great, and we would be crazy not to be glad to be here.

Yes, we’ll still have some wrinkles to deal with. We’ll still have an imperfect church, which may suddenly look sunnier, too, and upbeat. We’ll still have a world short on fair play. There will continue to be cruelty and greed and stupidity, but I’m counting on us to leap over these in hopes of making the world new again. Sure, we know that other new centuries have been down this road before us. We know their aspirations soon floundered, but hope needs only a small door to squeeze through.

We at NCR see a huge herd of ideas and words thundering toward us -- readers wanting to bid adieu to the old or welcome the new. It’s well known that NCR readers are the most opinionated on earth. And the most creative. And the most gracious. There must be a way for us all to weave together a memorable last hurrah for the recent past and a salute for the limitless, glorious future.

We propose a special supplement, a time capsule. We will put our aspirations and apprehensions and resolutions and hopes in a bottle, real or metaphorical, and send them on some sea into the vast future.

We invite all our readers and writers to write their “message in a bottle.” It may be in the form of a letter, an essay, a poem, a story, a column or some new genre we have never seen before. We hesitate to put restrictions on length, but common sense hints that an epic, for example, will have approximately a snowball’s chance. We reserve the right to accept some and reject others, to edit for style and especially for length. Your contribution could come in a mile long and end up a line in NCR, but if it’s the right line, you can be proud of your contribution to this historic time capsule.

There are no restrictions on subject matter except that it be demonstrably related to the millennium. Obviously repetitions of well-known thoughts, or recycled themes from NCR, will have less priority than amazing new insights never dreamed before.

Deadline for submissions is Nov. 15. Writers who include a stamped, self-addressed card will be notified that their material arrived. Payment will be at the usual NCR rates for work published. The supplement will be part of the Dec. 31-Jan. 7 issue.

Send submissions to NCR Message in a Bottle, 115 E. Armour Blvd., Kansas City MO 64111. Or, better still, e-mail to ncrbottle@aol.com

I was reading somewhere that our generation is noted for its lack of interest in posterity. Here’s a chance to change all that because there’s a whole lot of posterity waiting for us round the corner.

-- Michael Farrell

National Catholic Reporter, October 1, 1999