April 07, 2018

The Goofy Gregorian, or A Month Is Nothing But Just A Bad Habit

The Gregorian calendar is awkward and arbitrary, but we are stuck with it. Anyone who tries an alternative calendar gives up on it after a while. Calendar reformists went full force with the French Republican Calendar and the Soviet Revolutionary Calendar, but those only lasted twelve and eleven years. The Eastman Kodak Company used the International Fixed Calendar for 61 years, but only for financial planning purposes.

I think about calendars every new year when there is excitement for the new year, yet I realize that the calendar change is really on an arbitrary date (rather than an astronomical event). I started thinking about calendars again at Easter because I'm always like, When is Easter this year?

The first thing that bugs me is that months are meaningless. I just found this quote:

A month is a wholly irrational division of time. It has no relation to anything in astronomy, or human experience. It is an inaccurate and varying measure of time that is a constant annoyance in business and a misleading unit in science. It has no religious significance. 
A month is nothing but just a bad habit. [Link.]
What a great description of the problem. I can only add that it's annoying to kids to learn about the months and the number of days in each one, and many adults struggle to remember the number of days. The "Thirty days hath September" rhyme is just as hard to memorize as just, well, directly memorizing the days for each month.

I already mentioned that the first day of the year is arbitrary. It seems like it should start at a solstice or an equinox, or maybe even an apogee or a perigee of the Earth's orbit. So that bugs me, too. The calendar really isn't organized around solar or lunar events, even though that was the original idea.

Anyway, there is no way to fix it and have everyone go along with it. The International Fixed Calendar looks neat on paper, but it interrupts the seven-day week cycle by shifting it one or two days every year, so that's a problem for religious practice. I can also think of ways to fix the months so that they follow the lunar cycle, but that would cause other types of confusion. Also, each reform has an agenda that conflicts with someone else's agenda. So if you're not going to do it right, then why do it at all?

Regardless, it is kind of interesting to think about different forms of calendars and even how the calendar I see daily influences the way I think about seasons and time.


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