A Year Goes By

Taking a solid look at the Gregorian calendar, which the western world has, mainly out of historical reasons, opted to use, it does not take a brilliant man to spot some shortcomings. Its months are ill arranged, and “September”, “October”, “November”, “December”, which literally mean 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th, are actually numbered 9th, 10th, 11th, and 12th. The distribution of days of each month seems as if it was chosen by a newborn toddler, and February invokes ridicule. The lunar period does not coincide at all with the months, so a separate calendar has to be maintained for the moon phases. On top of that, we have to perform incredibly annoying calculations for leap years when trying to find out exactly how long ago in seconds some distant event took place, or when looking into the far future. And to conclude, the beginning of the year, January 1st, is a dubious place to start – a bit after the middle of winter (which is usually at the 21st of December).
You can read up on the history of the Gregorian calendar, and see how it developed into the monstrosity that it is today from previous calendars (note, that it hasn’t changed much in the last ~430 years). Some of it, surprise surprise, is due to political intrigues and personal fetishes, not unlike how today’s science is somewhat dominated by such petty affairs.
However, there is a meaning to it all – at the very base, a calendar is supposed to to tell us what part of the year it is. Some of the temporal units which man has devised for himself are quite arbitrary: the values for seconds, minutes, hours carry no real physical meaning. Likewise, the Gregorian months we are used to are of no real importance, because they do not keep up with the moon. The week is a religious timespan, but otherwise empty and hollow. However, two main timespans do carry special meaning with them: the day, and the year.
Their meanings are fairly obvious. First, man must sleep, and has poor night vision; it is therefore important to distinct between day and night, and Earth’s rotation about its own axis has substantial influence on the world. Second, the weather and agriculture are determined by the season; it is therefore important to know what part of the year it is, and when a new one would start. Understanding Earth’s rotation around the sun is crucial to carrying out our lives.
The latter are the essential reasons for remembering when a year starts, and when a year ends. One must know when to prepare for ice or snow, when to reap and when to sow. That is all. All other meanings affiliated with the term “year” are arbitrary. Still, a year being a considerable length of time, people like to celebrate birthdays, annual anniversaries, and hold other ceremonies after this irrelevant period of time. Perhaps the age of a person is counted in years, because a long time ago, many people did not survive harsh winters, and thus saying “I have seen 14 winters” indeed signified something about the speaker. With time, it evolved into the arbitrary, “I am 14 years old”, which, with today’s modern medicine and technology, is not that impressive a feat.
My own opinions about the matter are not fully resolved. On the one hand, the arbitrary nature evokes me to take no notice of birthdays and anniversaries. On the other hand, men do need at some point pause and reflect on their creation, and as the accepted interval is a single year, I will conform to this.
I therefore wish this blog a happy birthday. It has seen over thirty posts, which is dozens more than I had expected, seeing as I do not promise to write regularly and thus lack an incentive of sort. I have managed to produce, in my opinion, some high quality material, varying from mathematical aspects of bridges, prolonging winter to infinity, solving philosophical problems, and political satire. I have also managed to spew out some horrible junk, *cough*UltimateCode*cough*, but not as much as one might have expected. Overall, it was a relatively productive year. I have also written many other pieces which I did not post here, since they were either targeted at a unique audience, or not fit with the context of the blog. May the next revolution around our beloved flaming hydrogen ball be as bountiful.


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