Monday, December 31, 2012

The Tranquility Calendar

As I type this, it has now just become the year 2013 in Hong Kong two hours ago, has just become 2013 in New Zealand, and is about to become 2013 in India one hour from now. It will become 2013 in Riadh, Saudi Arabia in three hours.

Actually, it could be considered the year 4710 in China, becoming 4711 on January 23, and the year of Nandana in the Hindu calendar, not becoming the year of Vijaya until February 18. And in the Islamic calendar the year is now 1434, with the new year having already arrived back in November of 2012. Of course, the Mayan calendar ended back on December 21, with no ill effects to any of us.

My point in citing these cultural differences in calendar measurement is not to belittle the Gregorian calendar, which we use. In fact, all the nations cited above have adopted the Western calendar as the worldwide standard, mostly because their traditional calendars are subdivided into many other dozens of sub-variants which are a headache to reconcile. China calls their traditional agrarian calendar Yin, while calling the Gregorian calendar Yang. India uses the Western calendar almost exclusively, and the Arab world uses the Gregorian calendar alongside their Islamic one, relying on the Islamic version for the proper times to celebrate things like Ramadan or conduct the Haj around the city of Mecca. But there are different ways of reckoning our calendar systems, and I'd like to outline a few.

Introducing the Tranquility calendar, so named because it marks New Year's Day, Year One, as the day humans first set foot upon an extra-terrestrial world, our moon. That would be July 20, 1969. It's a calendar which makes a tremendous amount of sense, both mathematically and culturally. Here's how it works:

There are thirteen months of four weeks each, providing for exactly 364 days, plus one extra day which is New Year's Day. (Think of it as a second Sunday.) It was proposed by a man named Jeff Siggins, and published as a proposal in Omni magazine, July 1989. It has a leap year, where one extra day is added to New Year's Day, (a third Sunday), after which the weeks begin normally again.

There are some key advantages to such a calendar. First, it marks the most significant event in human history as the starting point. That makes this year - right now, that is - year 44, A.T. (after-Tranquility). This makes far more sense than marking the starting point at the birth of a man who 1.) turned out not to be the Son of God after all 2.) might not even have existed 3.) whose birthday we don't know anyway 4.) whose New Testament descriptions as to the time and date of his birth are contradictory 5.) whose birth is marked by a celestial star whose existence has never been definitively proven 6.) whose likeliest birth date is actually 4 B.C.E. instead of year zero, 7.) who can't have been born in year zero anyway, because year zero does not exist, 8.) who represents a waning and dying religion, etc. etc. Nearly all businesses use a 13 period system of 13 weeks per quarter to keep track of their financial reporting already, so it makes for a seamless transition in that sense. Every several years or so, the final quarter has 14 weeks, as the annual day lost catches up to the accounting system, but otherwise, it works fairly seamlessly. Were our culture to adopt such a structure, we would no longer have certain months that were longer than others, nor would we have calendars which vary year by year. Each calendar would be identical to the previous year's calendar, and we would no longer have to give up our favorite pin-up art come the year's end.

On the other hand, the publishing industry would lose out on its calendar printing business. Nor is that the only problem. The system proposed by Siggins uses different calendar names from the ones we are used to. So, for example, December is, more or less, the month of Faraday. January is the month of Galileo. February is the month of Hippocrates, and so forth. That would take some getting used to. Also, adding one extra day before resuming the seven-day traditional week throws off all cultural and religious calendars by one day every year, and two every four. That means that their religious celebrations would either have to adjust, or else be in conflict for alternating periods of six and fourteen years, which can be a problem for employees who want to worship on their Sunday when their workplace calendar dictates that it's actually Tuesday and they're supposed to be clocked in. Also, thirteen months is not something we're generally used to. Some people are superstitious about the number 13, and besides, there's a tendency to want to keep the New Year's celebration right where it feels natural, which is near the Winter solstice. July 20 makes for an excellent summer solstice celebration, but people just aren't used to having a big celebration at that time, other than the fourth of July celebration. And how would the new calendar affect such celebrations? If we retained such landmark dates for July 4th, or Labor Day, or Christmas, we would largely have no problems, except for Halloween since All Hallows' Eve falls on October 31, and the new calendar would not have any dates greater than the number 28. That's a problem. Finally, with the entire world using the Gregorian calendar system, and asking everyone to suddenly adapt a new system would be highly disruptive.

Yet not having a calendar which marks year one seems criminal! Especially now, with China, India and Europe on the verge of landing men on the moon themselves, and with major breakthroughs having been made in 2012, including stem cell regression, the discovery of the Higgs boson, advancements in nano-technology, micro-surgery... the list goes on and on. How can we insist upon keeping a calendar system which revolves around a slowly suffocating creed and points to a non-existent event, assuming the man in question even lived?

As such, I propose a slightly revised Tranquility calendar. We keep all the traditional names for our months, but add a new month after what would be the old July 20th. That month will be called Selene, the most ancient name for Luna, our moon. We then only have to get used to one funky new month instead of thirteen. What used to be July 20th under the old calendar will be Selene the first, and under the new calendar, July 19th will end up being July 28th anyway. January will be the only month to have 29 days, as will February on leap years. We will have a slightly different calendar each year in terms of what day of the week each new year begins on, but we have that problem anyway, and that won't be much of an adjustment.

To make the adjustment perfectly seamless, there are two methods: One, wait until a year comes along in which December 31st would happen to fall on a Sunday, thus making January 1st of the new year a seamless transition. Ideal years for that would be 2011, which is an opportunity lost, or (how about this) the year 2016. That, or we could have the year be one in which July 20th falls on exactly the same day, Sunday, as it did back in 1969, and make it a seamless transition from there. That would be July 20th, 2014. Either way, there are two great opportunities coming up in the future. I argue, let's do it!

In the meantime, Happy New Year! It is, as of midnight tonight, the year 2013 Gregorian, the Year of the Dragon, 4710, in China, the Year Nandana in India, the Year 1434, Hijri...

...and the year 44, Post-Tranquility!


Eric

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