Why we’ve counted years – a Big Deal

a new system for reckoning the passage of time

years.timeline“What year is it? It’s 2019, obviously. An easy question. Last year was 2018. Next year will be 2020. We are confident that a century ago it was 1919, and in 1,000 years it will be 3019, if there is anyone left to name it.”

Those are the opening sentences in the article A revolution in time by Paul J Kosmin. The subtitle: “Once local and irregular, time-keeping became universal and linear in 311 BCE. History would never be the same again.”

D’oh. There are so many concepts we take for granted – the number zero, e.g. – that we take assume that they’ve somehow ALWAYS existed. But “from earliest recorded history right up to the years after Alexander the Great’s conquests in the late 4th century BCE, historical time – the public and annual marking of the passage of years – could be measured only in three ways: by unique events, by annual offices, or by royal lifecycles.”

What about the Hebrew calendar, for which it is currently 5779? “One of Alexander’s Macedonian generals… introduced a new system for reckoning the passage of time. It is known, after him, as the Seleucid Era. This was the world’s first continuous and irreversible tally of counted years. It is the unheralded ancestor of every subsequent era system, including the Christian Anno Domini system, our own Common Era, the Jewish Era of Creation, the Islamic Hijrah, the French Revolutionary Era, and so on.”

Moreover, “these Seleucid Era year numbers were marked onto an unprecedented range of public, private and mobile platforms. Era dates were affixed to market weights, jar handles, coinage, building constructions, temple offerings, seal rings, royal letters, civic decrees, tombstones, tax receipts, priest lists, boundary markers, astronomical reports, personal horoscopes, marriage contracts – and much, much more. In our own world, filled with ubiquitous date marks, it is easy to underestimate the sheer novelty, and so historical significance, of this mass year-marking. But, in the ancient world, this was without precedent or parallel.”

Why is this such a big deal? Chronology and dating “are the stuff that history is made on, for dates do two things: they allow things to happen only once, and they insist on the ordering and interrelation of all happenings. Every event must be chained to its place in time before it becomes an available object of historical articulation. And the modes by which we date the world, by which we apprehend historical duration and the passage of time, frame how we experience our present, conceive a future, remember the past, reconcile with impermanence, and make sense of a world far wider, older and more enduring than any of us.”

For ABC Wednesday

Not squeezing more in

I was having some sort of claustrophobic panic attack.

On a Saturday morning, we were scheduled to go to the Wizard’s Wardrobe to do a little cleanup, then onto New Paltz to see one of my oldest friends.

My wife, announced that she was going to go to the store to pick up a few things. My heart sank, just a little bit. This would take her longer that she thought – it almost always does. This would make us late for appointment #1, which would make us tardy to appointment #2.

Then, abruptly, she decided to stay home and relax for a few moments before we had to go. I was pleased but shocked. And I had nothing to do with this. She was downstairs, and I was upstairs, and I had only responded to her initial decision with a neutral-sounding “O.K.”

Another story: I was relating something at work about someone who used to be there – for reasons of privacy, I won’t say who – but the problems we were seeing she related to problems she was seeing in her workplace. And it gave me a whole new perspective.

Another story: sometimes her husband is crazy, and she more or less accepts that. We were at the MacHaydn Theatre about 40 miles away. She was going to wait for a lot of the other cars to get out of the parking lot before she tried, even though she had had opportunities.

Well, I was having some sort of claustrophobic panic attack, and she accommodated my irrational need to get out of that parking space. She puts up with a lot.

The blurry picture, BTW, was taken by me on my tablet on May 15, our anniversary. Yes, I suck at this; tell me something I DON’T know. But most of the pictures of her in this blog were taken years ago, some before we even met.

Happy birthday, honey. I love you.

October #1 rambling: recovery mode

The Oregon Shakespeare Festival will commission 36 playwrights to translate all of Shakespeare’s plays into modern English.

wrong reenactment
Still on the mend, wearing this band around my waist, until at least November 9. I will write about this eventually.

I’ve managed to watch more baseball in the past week and a half than I saw the entire regular season. Great to see former Met Rusty Staub after his heart attack. Rooting for the Mets, or if they get eliminated, the Cubs. Just realized that the World Series Game 5 would be November. If it’s the Dodgers in the Series, I’m rooting for the American League team.

ALSO, my office is moving this week. Note to self: do NOT pick up anything over 20 pounds.

Understanding Mass Incarceration and Bringing It Down: An Interview With James Kilgore.

John Oliver: rips GOP candidates for blaming gun violence on mental illness in absence of a plan, and Migrants and Refugees.

Color film was made for white people.

The War on Science, even in Canada.

Seth Meyers explains that ridiculous Congressional hearing over Planned Parenthood and Planned Parenthood’s “Government Funding”: The Same Kind Your Doctor Receives.
Continue reading “October #1 rambling: recovery mode”

Time passages

I’ve read old journals/diaries of mine from the 1970s and 1980s, and much of it is cringeworthy.

from the Oddity Mall
from the Oddity Mall
I read this book last year, Thinking in Numbers, by Dainel Tammet, and discovered that I had something in common with American philosopher William James, who noted that “the same space of time seems shorter as we grow older.” He cites a mathematical explanation by contemporary French mathematician Paul Janet, who noted:

our experience of time is proportional to our age. For a ten-year-old child, one year represents one-tenth of his existence, whereas for a man of fifty, the same year equates only to one-fiftieth (2 percent). The older man’s year will thus seem to elapse five times faster than the child’s…

I came to that same conclusion at least thirty years ago; it’s all math.
Continue reading “Time passages”

What to do with the stuff after they die

Attempting to immortalize your loved one by leaving everything “just as it was” or storing away boxes to go through at some later date may prolong your grieving process, preventing you from moving forward with your life.

ref0009sMy eldest niece has a friend named Jessica McKimmie. Jess has a blog called Peace Through Grief. The first post, dated, coincidentally or not, on September 11, 2013:

After the sudden loss of my mom last year and the loss of my dad eleven years ago, I’m beginning to consider that maybe, just maybe, I’m here on this earth to talk to others about grief.

And she does Continue reading “What to do with the stuff after they die”