Calendar Reform is a Foundation of Change

Changing your mind as you define your time.

My people will sleep for one hundred years, but when they awake, it will be the artists who give them their spirit back.
Louis Riel

He was right, and Riel’s “people” appear to be generously inclusive.

pencil time

Colonized by the Seven-Day Week

Time is an indivisible whole, a great pool in which all events are eternally embodied…
Frank Waters

What I take from Frank Waters is that our division of time is completely arbitrary. We are free to define it as we will. How do we do that for a global population who use any number of solar, solilunar, lunar, rule-based, observation-based, religious, secular, and/or speculative calendars? Our notion of days and months and years varies considerably, let alone all those other subdivisions.

linear time

Except the 7-day week. If you want to talk about colonization, the 7-day week wins the grand prize. Calendars all over the world observe all kinds of “market weeks” – 3-, 4-, and 5-day weeks are common in parts of West Africa, 10-day weeks were used in Egypt and China, the Maya and Mexica use 13-day periods the Spanish called trecena.

Particularly since the Industrial Revolution, which played a crucial role in pulling human beings away from nature, the week has been gradually replacing the year in significance, becoming second only to the day as the major cycle regulating work rhythms.

The evolution of the week generally coincided with the rise of a market economy.
The Seven Day Circle by Eviatar Zerubavel


The seven day week is tied to both to industrialization and the market economy, and has replaced the year in terms of significance. That means that payday is more important that winter.


I don’t know how to stress this enough. The calendar creates a rhythm for your life, from day to day, month to month, and year to year. We’re all marching to the same seven-beat rhythm over top of other beats of five, four, three, two… We’re losing our diversity of language, of species, of cultures, and ways of organizing time.

History doesn’t repeat itself, but it rhymes.
–Mark Twain

Something else about the week. It doesn’t synch with the year very well. In fact, the Gregorian Calendar repeats itself once every 400 years. It has a rhythm like a wheel with a stone stuck in it – every four years, there’s a bump that throws everything off. So, under this calendar, the basic unit, the day, and the week are the principle measures.

Oh, do you remember the celebrations when the gregorian calendar had finished its first cycle of 400? No? I don’t believe there were any. If you’re in charge of a calendar, and you can’t even keep track of the calendar’s anniversaries, you should probably seek a new vocation.

The number of days in the month is irregular. It’s the only calendar being used that isn’t either based on the caprices of the moon, or has some system of regulating the number of months. 31-28 or 29-31-30-31-30-31-31-30-31-30-31 – neither rhyme nor reason.

The gregorian calendar is quite possibly the most dysfunctional calendar ever devised by humanity.

So Gregory XIII is pope of calendar fail.

I didn't design the stupid thing, I'm just a politician!

I didn’t design the stupid thing!

The gregorian calendar is basically the julian calendar with a new leap year rule. That is to say the calendar devised by Julius Caesar in egypt and introduced to rome in 46BC dubbed “the year of confusion” (it was 446 days long). This calendar then spread with the roman empire across europe and the Mediterranean. When christianity spread throughout europe, the calendar was adopted, replacing indigenous calendars. Country by country converted until the early part of the 20th century, when China adopted it, then it was locked in place over top of all of the most widely used calendar systems in the world.

It now dictates how our secular, industrialized world arranges international commerce and communications.


As [people] free themselves from submission to the external cycles of nature, relying more often on self created and variable social cycles, they increasingly risk internal disruption.
Kevin Lynch

Most calendar development follows the same pattern: associating the day with the lunar cycle, and both of those with the changes of the seasons; observing history through genealogies, and intergenerational stories. Storytelling becomes linked to the calendar, and the stories of the people recurs with every new day, month, year

There are plenty of studies and books that detail how the body’s function are tied to daily, monthly, and yearly variations in temperature, humidity, etc.

the Industrial Revolution saw factories running 24 hours, whereas before we had worked during daylight, which changes with the seasons (depending on where you live). We work indoors under artificial light on through the winter. We don’t know what the phase of the moon is, or where the tides are, or why our allergies are suddenly acting up.

is it lunchtime

We ask one another what time it is, what the weather is like out, is it lunchtime yet? is it bedtime?  I don’t know how many times I’ve asked and answered these questions on reflex. Probably a dozen times before breakfast. Each one betrays the distance between our bodies & minds from the natural signs of the passing of time. Our body’s functions are tied to the time of day in an ebb and flow of hormones, energy, cravings, activities, etc. If we’re separated from this relationship, then we don’t know if it’s morning or afternoon, if the temperature is rising or falling, if we are hungry or not, if we are tired or not.



The temporal coordination of complementary differences among [group members] enhances their interdependence and, thus, functions as a most powerful basis for a strong organic solidarity within the group.
Eviatar Zerubavel

…substantial calendrical reforms have always been associated with great social – political as well as cultural – reforms.
–Eviatar Zerubavel


I see a lot of opportunity for reform beyond calendars, in terms of urban development, energy use, environmental impact, and so on. The end of the industrial era sees its giants going down kicking and screaming, whereas the information era is still in its infancy, but growing stronger.

The role the calendar would play in a world of interdependent bodies, would be as intermediary between existing (and potentially new) calendar systems. There are various systems that serve these roles, however, theAbysmal harmonizes them, defining terms along as universal notions as there are: darkness and light.

It would serve the same role as English as a common language to many people, and a means of them to communicate. As the number of people who speak it as a second (or third, etc.) language increases, it will become more pragmatic, less Churrigueresque.


It’s a tool for interdependence, for a multiplicity of expressions of culture, with a simple intermediary step. It is by no means a substitute for learning other languages, cuisines, dances, music, stories, and timekeeping.




In the end, it’s all a dance.

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