Yeah, so about this thing…
Why the calendar thing?
When I was wee, 5 years old or so, I noticed that it was late, but the sun hadn’t set yet. I asked my mother if the days were longer in summer than in winter. Yes.
I’d already had a taste of the four seasons (this being around Quebec City), so I got the flowers & birds in spring, hot weather summer, cool falling leaves Halloween, snow cold dark Christmas.
At 7 or 8 years of age, we learned about the calendar and days of the year and all that in school. I missed that day as it happened. I was there for the review, and knew the number of days in the year when I was asked. I had been paying attention at some point in my life I suppose.
Next, less wee, 8 or 9 years old. Teacher told us about Incan culture.
We did a project about them, and I drew a series of pictures from a National Geographic, that depicted buildings used as sundials.
Okay, so that’s a thing.
I was really happy when I got my first wrist watch around that time. I was a rite of passage. A simple adornment that suddenly made me look older (as opposed to cigarettes which only made me look like I wanted to look older).
That’s the building blocks I remember for this interest in representing calendar time. I recall struggling to visualize the Gregorian Calendar when I was 8 or 9. I kept picturing the months like squares around a monopoly board. But January and September didn’t quite fit right. This image of January in a particular physical location (like in an illustration) kept recurring, but I could never resolve what that was all about.
After a Hiatus
Forward ho through life and moving around for a while until the late 1990s in Ottawa, where I developed a curiosity in maya civilization and the calendar. This was before the 2012 thing became the thing it was. Still early enough that there were a couple of books on the calendar, but I had little basis to sift through the amount of material that was either nonsense or way over my head. But I read and sifted and figured out what I could.
It took some doing, to shift my thinking that was so intrinsically tried to this January to December, Saturday to Friday system, however, I managed to understand it, after years of giving it a go.
In and around this time (ironic, isn’t it, that I didn’t note down a single date of this pursuit of calendrics?), I came across a proposal for a reform to the Gregorian Calendar – a 13-month calendar, where each month was 4 weeks, and there was 1 extra day that wasn’t a weekday. Novel idea. It took some thinking to get my head wrapped around a day that wasn’t a weekday. Just blank day? Odd, but the rest seemed intriguing.
How did the Gregorian get to be what it is?
Alright, so having gotten an idea of how that worked, I wondered how the Gregorian got to be what it is. The first thread I found about that was in a book about Roman holidays (there was no wikipedia when I was scrounging around for information). So, the Etruscans had a 10-month lunar calendar (why bother counting in winter, right?). Mars was the first month, december the 10th (makes sense, right?). Two more months were added.
The seven day week came later. The Romans had to mess about with the calendar to the point where Julius Caesar fixed it by announcing that 46BC would have 448 days (and was dubbed the Year of Confusion by just about everybody).
They got that all sorted out, then promptly messed it up (can’t leave anything to Senators), so that Augustus had to sort out the leap year rule again (and also imposed it on Egypt, which had been getting along fine without it). Only problem is, the leap year rule didn’t quite keep the calendar aligned with the seasons.
So after the introduction of the A.D. dating system (but before the B.C. bit, which came later), Pope Gregory XIII was credited with tweaking the leap year rule. Still not perfect, but much better than the Julian Calendar.
All that adjustment took was 10 days from October. There were riots.
Same again when the British Empire adopted the Gregorian calendar in 1752.
and now we’ve got this thing, mishmashed together from Roman roots, through Roman and Holy Roman Empires, to the Catholic Church. This is the calendar we’ve inhereted to use to share dates globally.
What Else are People Using?
There’s lots. I focused mostly on the mechanics – how the calendar tied to natural or sociological phenomena – rather than on the holidays, for which I would want a better understanding of the cultures in question, which is a lifetime study in and of itself.
What I found, in most general terms, seem to be the following groupings of calendar systems:
1) lunar calendars – these follow the cycles of the moon, regardless of the season or time of year in which it occurs.
2) lunisolar calendars – these tie the llunar months to the year through observation, rules, or a combination.
3) solar calendars – these observe the year divided up by some arbitrary means of cultural importance, rather than natural cycles.
4) other calendars – tied to neither the sun or the moon, these organize the days by some other rhythm, usually recurring cycles of a set number of days.
After having researched in libraries, online, and other places, I discovered a general rule for calendars, with a whole load of exceptions which were really interesting in their own right.
After having pondered on this, and considered it, reflected on it, toyed with it, finally, on December 21st, 2005 (I do remember that date as it turns out), I drew theAbysmal Calendar. There it was on paper.
Now all I had to do was figure out what the drawing meant.
That’s where this blog started out. I had returned to that visual representation of the year that I couldn’t resolve in my head as a young ‘un. Here it was, finally, inspired by the Maya and Inca, travelling the world, and living in high latitudes.
that’s where the thing came from, and even since this blog has been running on and on, new features seem to work into the existing cog-o-sphere (it’s both wibbly and wobbly).
the timing of the thing was curious as well. theAbysmal Calendar “launched” we’ll say, on December 21 2012 to coincide with the southern solstice, and one of the end dates to the great cycle of the Maya. (My rationale is that if you’re going to synch with an existing calendar, you may as well go with the most accurate one yet).
As it turns out, that same day in Ottawa, the Idle No More movement launched into public awareness. This was the flashpoint for the increase in awareness of indigenous issues, the rallying of non-indigenous with indigenous people, and the very real empowerment of Canada’s natives people who have been disempowered over the course of centuries. It is humbling to witness first hand.
I have discussed calendar reform with a number of people, many of whom accept the calendar we have and don’t think much beyond it. Although, more and more people know about Chinese New Year, and their Chinese year animal. They might know about Ramadan (a month on the Islamic Calendar), or Rosh Hashana (Jewish New Year), but the default is the Gregorian, and people don’t see the point of going through such a huge disruption.
However, it need not be. I’m not proposing doing away with the Gregorian Calendar. I propose we use something more appropriate for a global population of disparate needs and beliefs. Everyone is free to observe whichever calendar they presently use.
theAbysmal is strictly numerical. Days, Months, Lunar Months, Years, etc. are all numbered. No names. In this way, it will be easier to share dates. The format is standardized, unlike the Gregorian 12/7/10 is that y/d/m, y/m/d, d/y/m, d/m/y, m/y/d, or m/d/y? Seriously, what is that?
theAbysmal has two functions I suppose. There’s the chromatic counter, which counts each second, day, lunar month, and year from theAbysmal Calendar’s inception at midnight on Dec. 21st 2012. This will more easily link with the Unix Time (seconds in Universal Coordinated Time (UTC)), and the Julian Date, which is a linear count of days without any ties to months, years, etc.
theAbysmal adds lunar months and years, such that they start at 0, and count by increments of 1 until forever (or we forget, or someone gives it to some Senators, or the sun explodes). that’s the premise.
The second function is as a Solilunar (or lunisolar) Calendar. Lunations (theAbysmal name for lunar months) are tied to the year. The Year itself is divided up like a 13-month calendar, with one day outside of the 13 months.
As theAbysmal Calendar doesn’t officially use weekdays, the 7-day week cycle can continue unbroken. It means that the 52 weeks of the year will start one day later every year (2 days later on a leap year). For example, if this year the weeks begin on Sunday, next year on Monday, the following year (leap year) on Wednesday, and so on. However, in any given year, each month will be identical: four weeks. Doesn’t it make more sense to know that a month means 28 days, like a day means 24 hours?
After exploring it further, I discovered symmetries and all manner of number games that can be played with, to divide the year into all manner of regular, repeating periods of time. Although that’s the lesser of its functions, it does suggest that it is versatile enough to be applied in ways we cannot yet foresee.
That’s certainly the hope.
So, from here, I’m not sure what to do. I honestly believe this is a thing, this very important thing, will likewise help us to work together globally as interdependent peoples.
Thank you for your interest, support, and time. Especially time.