Friday, December 25, 2009

New Year's Day on Mars

When, in the year 1000,
the year 1000 was celebrated,
it marked only a century or two
of reckoning dates from the birth of Yeshu
(the Aramaic correlate of the Greek 'Jesus'.)
it was not the year 1000 of course
since Fibonacci had not yet (until 1202)
introduced the Arabic numerals into Europe
(which he at least, having studied in Tunis had
the good grace
to call
the 'Hindu' numerals.)

It was the year 'M'
that being in Roman numerals
the symbol for 1000,
the Latin for 1000 being 'mille'
from which
the English
'mile', 'million', and 'millenium'.

Although it was a Roman
numeral, and the Aramaic speaking Yeshu a
Palestinian subject of the Romans,
that Roman numeral was not the Roman year, which,
reckoned A.U.C.
(anno urbis conditae, from the founding of the city)
was 752 at Christ's birth
(ignoring an apparent four year error),
and so the year M would have been
1752 according to the
whose numerals,
designated it.

On a recent trip to Thailand
(which they,
ungenerous to English sensibilities
insist on calling Muang Thai),
I discovered that the Thais,
having generously adopted a twelve month
solar calendar beginning on our January first,
still date their calendar to the birth of the Buddha
(the number of their year being 543
greater than ours ( and dare I mention
the twenty years
gone missing
from the Indian

The Muslims,
by many accounts the most numerous
religious group in the world,
start their calendar with the flight (hegira)
of their great prophet Muhammed
from their most holy city, Mecca,
in fear of his life (not,
of Jews, Christians, Romans, or Persians but
of fellow Arabs from the same clan),
about our year 622
(with the exception that the Muslim calendar
gains a year
on the Gregorian
once every 22 1/2 years.)

Jews in the East had
for many centuries
used the Seleucid calendar
that began in 312 B.C. when,
in the ninth century,
European Jews began dating
'anno mundi',
to the beginning of the world,
or 3761 B.C. in Gregorian terms.

What was God thinking when,
in his infinite wisdom,
he decided
to make the period
of the earth's revolution
a non-integer multiple
of its rotation?
Perhaps he meant it
as a WPA for astronomers.

It was left to the infallible
Gregory XIII (although this does beg
the question about Gregory's XII and XI)
acting on discrepancies found
800 years earlier by the Venerable Bede,
to set things straight
by declaring
the day after October 4, 1582,
to be October 15, 1582.

Ten days,
up in smoke.
Amazing the things
you can make happen,
if you happen to be Pope.

But perhaps this too is a bit
simplistic, since Protestants,
being what they are,
against a Pope's having the gall
to be accurate.
And so whereas
the appropriate days disappeared
in Spain and France,
they took two years to vanish
in Luthered lands.

The British government,
being what it is,
cherished recalcitrance
until, in 1752,
September 2nd was followed by
September 14th,
throwing in the change of New Year's Day
from March 25th back to January 1st.

Recent cosmological data suggest
that the universe is
3 thousand million years newer
than previously thought,
only 10 thousand million years old.

2000 approaches though 1000 never happened.
It reminds of the singer Prince ---
'Tonight I'm gonna party like it's 1999'.

Why not?

It is.

1 comment:

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