Natural vs. Arbitrary Delineation
There is a small but important distinction between the length of the year of and the line between one year and the next. One emerges from nature’s reality, and the other is more arbitrarily decided by humans.
The length of the year emerges from the time that it takes for the time that it takes for the earth to move around the sun. This is the why for the more advanced prehistoric societies with solar calendars, the the length of the year is always about the same. Similarly, the length of a month emerges from the time is takes the moon to rotate around the earth. Societies had lunar calendars before solar calendars as it was much easier to notice the moon’s pattern (determining the length of the year was challenging enough that the original Roman calendar of Romulus was off by over 50 days). And before even the moon’s pattern, we sensed the passing of days as earth made its full revolution. It is thus wholly natural that a year is a year, a month is a month, and a day is a day, and unlikely that it would be another way. But when the year starts and when the month starts is a bit more random.
There were many solar calendars which totally different start dates, which is why there are many different “new years” around the world. At some point, western domination of the world made the Gregorian calendar the world standard. While it may unimportant that the year starts in January rather than July, I find this fascinating, as we attribute so much meaning to arbitrary lines of delineation, like the passage from December 31st of one year to January first of the next.
Just think of all the cheers, and champagne, and resolutions. Think of the end of the end of financial year, and looming tax filings. Some times are much more significant than others, and it’s largely a product of human randomness. It’s easily to conceive that a slight change in how history unfolded would have made so that this day, the day that you’re reading this, is the last day of the year. Imagine what you’d be thinking and doing differently if this were case. Knowing that many delineations of cultural importance are random, I would if we should make more of them.
Personally, I like the rituals that follow from the passage of days and years. We don’t seem as excited about months, but why not? In Therevada Buddhism, the full moon Poya is celebrated monthly and the most significant holiday. With the robots coming do to all our work, why can’t our biggest holidays be monthly, instead of annual?
Personally, I think I’m going to start celebrating Scorpio season, which runs from about October 23rd to November 22nd. I am a Scorpio, and I have yet to meet another Scorpio, including many who aren’t particularly astrology or thinking modalities like astrology, that doesn’t feel strongly about being a Scorpio. I’ve noticed many Scorpios will random exclaim that they’re Scorpios, like Courtney Barnett in this song. Those who are into astrology see Scorpios as an especially edgy and powerful sign, which has been a fun identity to lean into, so why not make it into whole season of fun?
That many human delineations of time are arbitrary implies that we have the power to take them away, shift them, or remove them. Days could end at 2a. The year could begin during the American summer. We could modify weeks, which are quite random when you think about it, and just count the days in the month. Perhaps instead of a 4 day work week, we have a 6 day week with 4 days for work and 2 days for work and family. Or maybe we alternate days. Or post-singularity, maybe we get rid of weeks entirely and just count the days in a month, as weeks seem to have something to do with balancing work and family/prayer, and with no work, they may be a vestigial delineation of time.
There’s so much possibility, and these changes would have a meaningful impact on our lives. What would you change, if anything?