Archive for January 2nd, 2007|Daily archive page

A New Arbitrary Celestial Orbital

Sure, I know. Posting New Years Wishes on January 2nd is probably the luck equivalent of playing hopscotch in the direction of a herd of black cats. Tough.

I had considered writing a long post about different historical new years. How each culture uses its own markers, it’s own measures. The Egyptians, the Greeks and the Romans each chose appropriate and different times for starting afresh. Despite the cultural conquest of the Christian/Western calendar traditions, the Hebrew, the Chinese, the Japanese and even the Russian new year persist into modern times.

Phil Plait, Bad Astronomer and gentle loser to squids, has an excellent post about the astronomical meaning of the word year. This is important to those who wish to measure time in billionths of a second and actually send probes or spaceships into the vastness of space and actually reach the target. For us mere mortals, that kind of accuracy isn’t necessary.

Indeed it is the cultural difficulties that sometimes stand in the way of scientific progress. Remember the Mars Climate Orbiter, the probe lost because one side of the team used American units and the other side had data in Metric (MKS)? It seems that sometimes scientific similarities can cross the immense vastness of space but the cultural differences can’t even be bridged here on Earth.

I won’t write about the different cultural new years. I’ll let my readers do the research themselves.

But I would say, that for me, the differences are as important as the similarities. Despite having a different day and a different manner of celebration, almost every culture understands the meaning of year and has an appropriate celebration. But the differences, not only in the New Year but in almost every aspect of life, separate cultures, nations, religions. The differences also highlight the similarities between individuals. Although wars are fought between cultures and nations, driven by economic necessity or religious zeal, the people fighting and dying are individuals, often with more in common than the political powers would like.

Thus, for me a new julian year means simply the rather difficult time remembering to put the correct digit at the end of a date. It is not a new beginning but rather a continuation. Each person needs to learn that the past is past and that a new future beckons every day. Every day is a new start into a fresh and hopeful future. Every new day must be celebrated, the lessons of the past learned, the pleasures remembered, the pains assimilated.

Sometimes time is too precious to research cultures and needs to be channeled into more appropriate places. Each arbitrary celestial rotation, often called day and as arbitrary as the year, brings a new, fresh chance to start, a new way to look at life and the ability to appreciate the luck and happiness one already has. May your next 364.25 rotations and your next celestial orbital bring you luck and happiness. And maybe a little more understanding of the differences and similiarities.

Happy New Year.