Essay: When and What Day is it?

Writers are story tellers and researchers who dig up things after getting lost running down rabbit holes. Mix in some historian, astronomer, anthropologist, math stuff, superstition, and observation of nature and mankind, and we charge into where only rabbits need to go.

My rabbit hole excursion involved time and our (USA/European) calendar. I’ve written about this before – Christmas in August, for example. So, I did some lookin’ stuff up.

Our clock time is based on a 24-hour day, determined by one 360-degree axial rotation of the planet. Calendar time is determined by the full orbit of the earth around the sun which takes 365.256 days. The spinning and orbiting do not come out even, so we have that .256 of a day to deal with. Thus, leap year and February 29th. But there is also the problem of the .006. If you don’t compensate for that, over time, things get off. It has happened.

What gets off? Easter. We had to get a grip on Easter. The solution was a new calendar. Can you imagine?

Computing the exact date of Easter is called computus. Obtaining an accurate calendar was one time when science, or observed reality, served the needs of religion. The Church needed to fix this. So, they did. And with the help of more than one mad scientist.

No shit folks. They feckin’ lost Easta and had to hire a guy to find it!

From first being questioned in 325 AD at Nicaea, it took more than 1,200 years to fix – hundreds more to get the Greeks and Turks on board.

Most of the world now uses the Gregorian calendar named after Pope Gregory VIII. It eventually replaced the Julian calendar due to the timing error. That six thousandths of a day made a big mess. But even with all of that, since Eastern Orthodox and Protestants were suspicious of everything the Roman Catholic Church did, it took hundreds of years for the Gregorian calendar to be adopted. The Pope’s authority was limited.

To bring on the new calendar in 1582, and to get dates properly aligned, 4 October was followed by 15 October, thus jumping 11 days. For approximately 500 years the world had two calendars (really it was more) due to religious mistrust within Christianity.

 

It took almost 200 years (1752) before England made the leap and adjusted from 2 September to the 14th. Historical rumor claims there were riots in London. The last European countries to officially adopt the ‘new’ calendar were Greece and Turkey in the 1920s.

I counted 34 different calendars in use world-wide this year (2018 or MMXVIII). I learned that horology is the name for the scientific study by horologists of time and the making of time pieces/clocks. I could not find an equivalent for calendar experts.

Time (Earth’s rotation on its axis) and calendar, (Earth’s orbit of the Sun) are closely tied, but the sources of measurement are literally astronomically different. We have time zones and an international date line, but we have no such logical place to start or stop measurement of a year.

Lunar phases come into play and there are lunar calendars. The Church had to deal with them, because of Easter. I know the moon is a big deal (especially when full), but I am writing a one-day blog, not a book. Back to my point.

When does each year begin? Whenever we say it does. Tradition and Greg’s calendar say we begin each year on January first. Why? Who says so? A long-dead Pope?

Another confusion issue with the Gregorian calendar is that it was adopted proleptic, meaning that dates prior to its 1582 inception were extrapolated back in time. For a long time, dual calendar dating was common. Born on 5 October 1254? Not so fast. All that work for a good, accurate calendar.

So, what day it is may depend not only on what religion you are, but also on what sect or denomination of the religion you are, what culture you belong to, and what calendar you are using.

I am thinking of the words in the song by Chicago, with a similar title, “Does anybody really know what time it is…” Do we care what day it is? Yes.

Currently, a new year begins when we are about a week into the northern hemisphere winter. Nothing really ends or begins after 1 January, just some ‘back to’ stuff like school or work, the grind, the salt mines. It’s depressing.

The new year should begin the day after Labor Day, in early September. It just makes more sense. The first Tuesday after the first Monday (Labor Day) would be when the year begins with a four-day weekend. Just move Auld Lang Syne and all the other new year’s traditions back a few months. Football would be just beginning instead of ending. Summer would be almost done, instead of the beginnings of winter.

Fall is already the holiday season. It’s when school begins and life changes. What mo’ betta’ way to bring in the New Year?

Get rid of Columbus Day (or whatever you call it, apparently, he was a dick anyway) and make Halloween a day-off – a real holiday. Pass a law that every normal person must costume up and wear a mask. Instead of trick-or-treating, kids must sing songs for money or candy. Make the day after Halloween even more spooky. Maybe graveyard parties? Bring back Decoration Day but make it Night. Cool!

Vet’s Day is good, but can we move Thanksgiving to something other than a Thursday? If we go with Friday, we can have Black Saturday, Purple Sunday (or Advent day one), and Cyber Monday, as is.

Pass a law that every kid with a birthday in December must have a party (and a good one) in June or July. Require gifts for the first 6 years. Align all the other holidays with Christmas and Yule and make the celebrations 12 days long. Light candles. Or move Christmas to August, as I’ve previously suggested. Think of it. All those f**king Christmas decorations gone by Labor Day (another law).

After New Year’s Day, add Saint Patrick’s Day as a day-off federal holiday and call it Green Day. Require everyone to wear green, drink beer, and eat corned beef and cabbage. Have a similar day for every other immigrant ethnic group there is. If an Indigenous People’s Day is needed. I suggest May first. Wait. What day was Custer’s Last Stand? Make it late June and make Juneteenth a holiday, too.

End the school year on or before June first. Make summer work vacations 20 days long. Require everyone to travel and to spend money with friends and family and to have fun for two weeks. The other six days are for trip prep and recovery. It would be an economic stimulus of the happy kind.

We determine how this goes. We, the people, make the decisions. Pass a law making it illegal for elected government officials not to do what we want. Add a law that jails them if they do not do the things they promised to do while campaigning. Include all presidents. Demand a new government agency to determine and ensure that everyone has life (health), liberty (freedom to choose), and happiness (even if they must go to the dentist sometimes).

But first, let’s fix the damn calendar. Remember, Labor Day is the last day of the year and the following day begins the new year, no matter the date. It would dress up one Tuesday of the year for someone and she’d get all sorts of Happy New Year wishes. A lot could change, until the following Tuesday.

Have a good time. Does anyone know what day or time it is? Does anyone really care?

Look both ways regardless of the days or what culture says.
It is only 2018 if we say it is,
and there have been calendar gaps for as long as
this mote of dust has hung on a sunbeam.

The most inclusive happy holiday song ever. A fun watch, if yer up to it.

Essay: Ya’ Know What?

My morning means coffee. As I listen to the Keurig groan to push water through that little plastic cup, I ponder the cosmos. Then, I’m off to my room where, with the help of Lappy the laptop, I investigate the inworld of cyberspace and contemplate the secrets of the vast physical universe. I wouldn’t want to have some cosmic detail wrong.

I sit at my desk and prowl through blogs and respond to comments before flipping to Facebook. After typing a few comments, and some likes or loves, I click to email. And behold: there is the prompt for this week’s essay.

Galileo was put on trial and spent the last years of his life in prison for suggesting that the earth revolved around the sun. We think we have a pretty good idea of how the universe works now, but what if we don’t? What if we’re wrong? What if…??

(Good grief!)

Galileo was on house arrest and ordered to deny the heliocentric heresy, which he did before recanting his denial. The sun-center working of the solar system had been around, but the question for him was whether he agreed with it. This was during the reign of Pope Urban the 8th and when the phrase, don’t piss off the pope became popular. It was bad for Galileo. It was worse for others. In the 400 years since, there has been no Urban the 9th.

The rest of the prompt is figuring out the universe and what if we are (or I am) wrong. The universe is one of my favorite topics and being wrong is something with which I am quite familiar. Just ask my wife or kids. The last part asks, what if?

I like to quote phrases that make me feel smart when they affirm what I have supposed. This phrase is credited to Zen:

‘If you understand, things are just as they are; if you do not understand, things are just as they are.’

Galileo and Pope Urban lived under the same sun and stars within the same solar system. One was right, and one was powerful. But another phrase is might makes right. It did in this case, but not in the long run.

The universe did whatever it did without the help or knowledge of either man. To navigate by celestial means, one assumes that the sun, moon, stars, and planets move across the sky. To the observer, that is what appears to happen, but things are not as they appear.

If we’re wrong, nothing changes. For now, we know what we know, and we look for more answers or corrections.

In time, we’ll correct our errors. Learning is endless, and science has gaps everywhere. Even if we had the cosmos accurately mapped out and understood all the chaos, the potential for more knowledge exceeds the spatial vastness of the universe itself.

And as for the we part; some of ‘we’ think the earth is flat, some of ‘we’ believe some of us are alien creatures; some of ‘we’ deny lunar landings. Too many ‘we’ think Hubble telescope scenes and Voyager photos are fake. Far too many of ‘we’ think science is nonsense, and that it was all created by one supreme deity. Regardless of the signs and clear evidence, some of us will always go the wrong way.

What if is the wrong question. Let’s try what if not? Consider some possibilities.

First, try to imagine this world without science. It is easier to envision a world without humans or any intelligent life. Now, with a twist of the cranium, imagine what John Lennon suggested.

Imagine a world without religion. It’s easier than it was to extract science and learning from history. We’ll always have both, but now we can ask the what if question.

For over 65 years, no one asked me to explain the universe or how it came to be. People were willing to explain it to me in terms of what they thought. Then, a few years ago, about the time I started mumbling the word atheist with personal pronouns, I was suddenly cast into the academic role of Carl Sagan, Bill Nye, and Neil deGrasse Tyson all rolled into one. I was charged with explaining not only how the universe works, but how it came to be. I was also challenged to explain the source of all life on earth, the details of evolution, and to fill-in any scientific gaps. Perhaps the inquisitors thought I would be enlightened.

I not only don’t have all the answers to such questions, I don’t need to have them. Nor do you. None of the seven billion people alive today, nor any of the 100-billion who have ever lived had all the answers or needed to know them.

If the question is what if we are wrong; the answer is of course we are. We do not have all the right answers and that is exactly what all the excitement should be about. Are we willing to learn? It’s why we are here: to always wonder. As Galileo said,

I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who has endowed us with sense, reason, and intellect has intended us to forgo their use.

***Bill Reynolds***

As you wander, look both ways.
Remember to look up.
Mind the gaps. As you learn, fill in where you can.

Poetry: Sonnet – To Magic

My inspiration was from Edgar Allen Poe’s Sonnet — to Science (click to read it). Reading Poe’s poem gave me chills of guilt. While not anti-magic, I’m pro-science. Knowledge makes the universe more interesting. We will never know or understand everything. Magic and scientific exploration will go on. Yet, I do share Poe’s lament.

 

 

Sonnet – To Magic

Magic! True father of science thou art!
…Who brightens all things with thy happy cries.
Why say thou to poetic scientific hearts,
…A scolder, who brightens our dullest eyes?
How should we love thee? Or how deem thee wise,
…Who of magic wouldst leave him to his thing?
To see for answers in the quelled skies,
…Albeit he soared with daunted left wing?
Did thou set Diana into her car,
…And give Hamadryad her tree of wood
And seek shelter on some happier star?
…Hast magic not set the Naiad to flood,
The Elfin to green grass, given to me
…Summer dreams beneath the tamarind tree?

(Bill Reynolds © 9 May 2018)

With magic and science, look both ways and be mindful of many gaps.

 

Love is the biggest magic of all.

**Note: I am not a fan of analyzing poetry, but my editor questioned some lines. This explanation relates back to Poe’s sonnet. “Line nine, Hast thou not dragged Diana from her car? refers to the Roman goddess of hunting and virginity, who rides the moon across the sky at night. With science, people saw that the moon, instead of being a carriage for a goddess, was actually a lifeless rock, so science metaphorically dragged her off the moon. The next two lines talk about the Hamadryad, which is a nymph from Greek and Roman mythology that lives in a tree and dies when the tree dies. Science, however, believes the tree lives without such creatures, and so the idea of the Hamadryad has been driven away.”

 

A2Z Challenge — H is for Hamadryads

If you’re a tree hugger, all is well. If you’re an arborist, even better. But if yer a tree chopper, you might want to be sure these little darlin’s don’t really exist. If you kill the tree, you kill the Hamadryad of that tree. That pisses off the gods and you know what that means, right?

Hamadryads live in the trees, more precisely in an individual tree. They are a specific type of dryad, which are a type of nymph. A nymph is a minor female nature deity usually associated with a specific location or landform.

They are different from other goddesses in that they are divine spirits who animate nature. They are beautiful young maidens who love to dance and sing. Their amorous freedom makes them very different from wives and daughters of the Greek polis. Now we know why those guys were hugging those trees.

Nymphs are beloved and can be found in forests by lakes and streams, and in or on trees.

Hamadryads are born bonded to a certain tree. If the tree dies, the hamadryad associated with it dies as well. For that reason, dryads and the gods punished any mortals who harmed trees.

I feel a twinge when I read Poe’s sonnet to science. To a degree, the poet is scolding science and, in a way, me.

He pines well for the wonderfulness of fantasy and nature’s unknown wonders. He is right.

Sonnet—To Science (By Edgar Allan Poe)

Science! true daughter of Old Time thou art!
Who alterest all things with thy peering eyes.
Why preyest thou thus upon the poet’s heart,
Vulture, whose wings are dull realities?
How should he love thee? or how deem thee wise,
Who wouldst not leave him in his wandering
To seek for treasure in the jewelled skies,
Albeit he soared with an undaunted wing?
Hast thou not dragged Diana from her car,
And driven the Hamadryad from the wood
To seek a shelter in some happier star?
Hast thou not torn the Naiad from her flood,
The Elfin from the green grass, and from me
The summer dream beneath the tamarind tree?

Source: The Complete Poems and Stories of Edgar Allan Poe (Pub: Alfred A Knopf, 1946)

Look both ways as you walk the woods
and recall within each tree lives a Hamadryad to protect.
Mind the gaps and morn the loss of so many trees.

 

Interdependence, Knowledge, and Belonging

Knowledge and Science

From the tiniest thing to the vast secrets of the universe, what will humans ever know? Will anyone ever correctly proclaim that all knowledge has been discovered and may be known or available to everyone? I doubt it.

Our galaxy – one of many

Science helps us understand our natural world better. But, science provides information only through descriptions from observations. With science, we may understand better what an earth quake is, or how to grow more soy beans, but ultimately the answers we receive from research are observations.

Microscopes, telescopes, laboratories, and other equipment for tests and measurements are among the tools used to make these observations. Yesterday’s scientific conclusions lead us to today’s information, and then to the changes we will read about tomorrow. It was scientific observation that convinced us the sun, stars, and planets revolved around the earth. It was also science that convinced us that was not the case.

The discoveries of science change. Does truth ever change? When I look around at our natural world, I see is what humans have done. Everything I see, while either part of nature or taken from it, was placed, caused, or permitted by humans—to a point. Other life forms may make their mark, but that will last only if humans permit it. When we don’t allow nature to progress or we interfere, it can be disastrous due to our limited knowledge. It may be science, but we don’t know everything and we can only explain so much.

Sensing and Nature

 

The spectacular trees

While nature is everywhere, my senses respond more strongly outdoors, in unfamiliar surroundings. I notice things less in my usual, everyday world. Change awakens my senses, whereas routine numbs them. Walking along a forest trail during a gentle, but persistent, rain provides stimulation that rejoins my surroundings with my own basic nature. It feels so right.

Seeing the trail, the roots of the magnificent trees, the green vegetation bouncing and dancing with falling raindrops, I feel aware and connected with the essence of life. It’s all here with me: sky, water, rich aromatic soil, and scree giving softness to my footsteps. Nature paints portraits of life and movement. I see how moisture mingles with the soil to send nutrients of life to plants and to quench thirsty animals, of which I am one.

Hearing the rain mesmerizes me as it falls where it will, on the leaves of trees and brush, onto the boulders and earth, and into the growing puddles and flowing streams. This is the sound of natural life – earth as it should be. The rustling sounds of birds and animals is alerting, as life deals in with nature’s wet gifts. And the rain. The glorious rain.

Feeling the soft, spongy earth beneath each step, I look down to see how the lovely wet soil now clings to my touch. I feel the rain pecking at me as it does upon the flowers. Animals respond to the natural bathing as a refreshing cleansing.

Touching the soft moss on a tree

My touch to the soft moss hugging tightly to the trees is a pleasant reminder of life on life, the natural interdependence within nature’s home. Against my face, and over my entire body, the rain penetrates cloths to caress my skin. I become one with the flora. I am refreshed, another being, pleased with our universe.

I can taste the freshness of the day. While rain on my head and face washes into my eyes, other drops find their way to my mouth, adding salt to the taste – the salt of the earth. I belong here.

A forest petrichor is the most pleasant of scents following rain. As the sounds and sights change with the gradually ceasing rain, and the forest begins to release the magical and glorious aroma of nature at work; life flourishes. If there is a heaven, it’s right here, right now, with me. I feel completely connected to nature. I yearn for this life, as it should be. I know this is life.

Awareness of Belonging

I become aware of the cosmic interconnectedness of everything. I know I have my place, fitting in with everything in the universe. The vastness of the cosmos finds the path and weaves its pattern through space, through time, and through me to the tiniest speck of galactic dust.

While science can provide words, descriptions, and explanations for everything that I sensed during my inspired walk in the forest rain, nothing can explain the deep, soulful feelings I experience when the vastness of nature communes with me. Conscious awareness.

Our senses perceive the environment as we discover nature and life.
Our sixth sense is that of belonging to the Universe.
Look both ways, discover the gaps, feel where we fit in.