Science

I saw it! Winter Solstice Glory

Posted on December 23, 2010. Filed under: Culture, Musings, Science, Travel |

I feel lucky now. In many parts of my country, the Winter Solstice Lunar Eclipse could not be seen. Where I live, there were clouds; there were stars; but, somehow, they moved away so the moon could be viewed—until it couldn’t. I stopped watching when it was completely covered, because I’d read that would last for three hours. And as it was very early in the morning by then, 1am-ish, I decided to just trust that the moon would reappear in its own time.

To say that this was a once-in-a-lifetime experience is trite, but true. This will not happen again for some 90 years, plus or minus, so I’m not holding my breath! If medical science progresses far enough to keep me alive for that long, well, I’m not sure that would please me!

On this night, I was able to go into my marvelously large back yard, and, looking straight up, I could see the current phase of the eclipse. I started at about 11:30 my time (which is US Mountain Standard) and popped out every 15 minutes for the next hour. Each time I went, I thought it would be the last, but I couldn’t resist another look, until…there was eerily no moon and no sun, anymore!

What does it mean? Do we need to wait another 90 years to find out? All I know it, this was a Winter Solstice to remember, and, as a person that celebrates these anyway…I felt particularly blessed!

Blessed be to all as we move towards what promises to be a memorable year! :)

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A picture of the Universe

Posted on July 12, 2010. Filed under: Culture, Musings, Philosophy, Science, Spirituality |

Space news doesn’t make it into the bigtime news very often. There has to be a shuttle launch or a major issue with the International Space Station to make headlines. So this photo of the aftermath of the big bang (you’d think that’d be pretty bit news!) sort of slipped through the cracks. Here is the photo, and here a newsclip with one of my favorite physicists commenting on it.

I think the photo is astounding; perhaps even consciousness changing. Something that disturbs me, though, is in Dr. Kaku’s commentary. He declares “This is the fireball that created the Universe (emphasis mine)...Genesis, Chapter 1, verse 1 ‘In the beginning’…” I’m not sure why he brings the bible into it. Don’t get me wrong; I’m all about integrating science and spirituality; I’ll get to that in a minute. I’m just wondering if Dr. Kaku and other scientists like him really equate the event known as “the big bang” with the first chapter of Genesis (from the Judeo-Christian scriptures).

Much as I respect some traditional religious teachings, I have never, really, been able to wrap my mind around a religious theory which claims a finite date on the calendar as its start. As in: The world was bad and sinful, and then “the special person” was born, and changed everything, and nothing that came before was any good, and you must embrace this new thing which is now true forever. This doesn’t fly for me, but neither does scientific theory stating that “The Universe” “began” at a certain moment in linear time. Besides the obvious (and a bit testy) question: “What happened before the big bang?” (or, conversely, “What happened before ‘The Word’, or ‘The Way’ from Genesis) the concept of a finite beginning is simply incomprehensible to me.

You can probably guess the primary linear-beginning religion I’m thinking of, but there are others. I’ve stated before on this blog that I’m a Universalist; that doesn’t mean I believe every single thing that each religion teaches, but that all are of equal value. I’ve found life enhancing wisdom in many sacred texts, particularly those of Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism, and Taoism (in alphabetical, not priority order).  I’ve studied all these in classes and/or groups, and have lived the teachings as well.

I’ve lately been exploring an even newer, yet ancient, philosophical structure which promises to integrate scientific understanding with mystical wisdom; something I’ve sought for some time.

So, is this picture, amazing though it is, a stop-action photo of a real event in linear time? Or, more likely to me, a moment; a point in the ever-changing landscape of our inquiry?

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MUSE in Space!

Posted on June 15, 2010. Filed under: Culture, Games, Science, Travel |

Part 1: Speculation. OK, so I have this friend, that I met through this organization, who is a physicist. He teaches physics at the local U, and he’s brilliant at explaining mysterious mathematical concepts to the uninitiated. During the course of helping to facilitate several of his lectures for the organization, I’ve become a fan. Here in the Sonoran Desert, many residents run away when the temperature begins to stay at 100F (40C) or more, consistently. (Can’t really blame them, can you?) So, when I heard that this excellent speaker was giving a talk “downtown”, on Astronomy, I decided I would enjoy going to hear what he has to say, and support his project during this slow time of year.

Now, granted, I’m a bit of a Space Nut, as you’ll know if you read this post about how I collected moonlight on my body (shameless attempt to drive traffic to a prior post; I really did that, though). I like science in general; it is one of the creative arts for me. I’m not among those who believe it has definitive answers (nothing has definitive answers in my opinion) but I see it as a tool or filter to examine the Universe. This is important: “examine” not “conclude”. Perhaps you will put on sunglasses when it’s bright outside, and therefore are able to see, in greater detail, the nude pool party over your neighbor’s fence. The “nature” of the “party” hasn’t “changed” because of the “tool”—namely, the “sunglasses”—they just give you the opportunity to examine it in detail from one perspective. [Now, stop that! And go back into the house!] If you are like me (which I wouldn’t wish on you) you certainly wouldn’t make any Universal Conclusions about your neighbors based on that one observation of that one event. You may, however, decide to move away based on the one event. After all, they didn’t invite you, did they? Who wants to live next to people like that?

I checked out the venue for tonight’s lecture. It’s called Sky Bar. My first thought: “Quaint name for an astronomy club, that. Probably a rented room somewhere with mismatched chairs and concrete floors where science geeks gather.”

It turns out “Sky Bar” is an actual, well, Bar. You know: drinks; tables; dark room; bartenders; loud music; big screen tvs. The kind of place I generally stay away from…but! This one has a telescope mounted on the roof, which projects the night sky onto the aforementioned big screen tvs. And! They have “Family Night” on Tuesdays (don’t know how old the “families” have to be in order to be accommodated; it is a “bar” after all) during which they have a guest lecturer on an astronomical topic. Do you know anywhere else that has an astronomy bar? It’s so fun to live here!

Tonight’s topic is: “A Voyage through the Universe”. How could I not want to go?

This is an unprecedented blog post for me, because I’m posting Part 1 before I go. I shall UPDATE with Part 2: The Actual Experience upon my return. I just wanted to write up a little background first. I can’t believe this Bar for Space Geeks has been open since late last year, and I’m only just now hearing about it! See you later, with impressions.

==========

Part 2: The Actual Experience: I’m back! My first reaction to the experience is that it was hilarious! What are they thinking? I went with three friends, all of whom knew the speaker: (warning! switching tenses!)

We walk past an enclosed patio with university-looking-types waiting in line to peer through a HUGE telescope. Looks fun. Right inside the door, there are teenagers crowded around experiments from Tucson’s vegetable oil-powered Physics Factory, which was parked outside. Once inside we’re in what looks like a warehouse, with a very long bar along once side (Did I mention that this is a BAR? Yes, I believe I did.)

There were three very large televisions placed along the brick wall opposite the bar; #s 1 and 3 showing a basketball game, the middle with a live cam-feed of the local mountains. As it was still daylight, the Sky Bar was not yet featuring the night sky. We noticed a small platform, a piano, and a lectern near the middle tv, and figured that’s where the speaker would stand. Right next to THAT were two pool tables; even at this early hour getting plenty of use. We took seats at a one of the small tables scattered about, and ordered some drinks; waited to see what would happen next. Presently our average, yet overpriced pizza was delivered from next door, and the place started to fill. I looked around at the students, instructors, and other kinds of people, many of whom had their laptops out, working on this or that; others, though, beginning to speak louder and louder as their drinks began to take effect.

The speaker arrived, came over to say “hello”, and wondered out loud what he’d gotten himself into. They gave him a microphone and projector, and let him loose on the crowd. He began to speak about the wonders of the Universe, the relative sizes of the various galaxies and planets, and showed us what our sun will look like when it finally explodes sometime in the future. He told us we’d have time to finish our drinks, first.

A little girl, there with her family, stares at the slides and at the speaker in rapture. A little boy, with a different family, loudly declares: “This is so BORING! When can we go home?”

“Clink” go the glasses.
“Thwack” sounds the pool cue.
“Roar” yells the group that is watching the game.
“Born”—did I hear him say “spiritual globules”?
No, it was spherical: Baby star’s name.

Visit the Sky Bar…if you dare.
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My Philosophy in a Pie!

Posted on May 30, 2010. Filed under: HowTo, Musings, Philosophy, Science |

…Chart, anyway. I am often asked…well, sometimes asked…OK, almost never asked…what my beliefs are. I like to imagine I am asked this, because I like to answer it. There are several ways to approach the topic of “beliefs”. One is through the door of Philosophy, which is a rewarding door for me. The thing with hypothetical doors is that one doesn’t know where they may lead. This is probably equally true of the door from my office to the hall, but I have more practice in imagining and believing in the hall than I do in philosophical concepts.

This being said, when I imagine my imaginary answer to the philosophical question in traditional western philosophical terms, I wonder if I can speak intelligently about my belief system using classical philosophical stances. “I’m mostly a ‘this’, I say, with some ‘that’ and ‘the other’ thrown in.”

“So why not”, I asked myself, in a whimsical mood, “throw all those philosophical urges at a pie chart, and see what emerges?”  I made a philosophical pie, and here it is!

Actually…it looks more like a cake, doesn’t it? One of those sponge cakes with colorful marzipan frosting? Should I retitle this post “Philosophical Cake”? No? Alright, let’s go on…

If you really, really want to know what each of these points of view means, defined according to “scholars” on the subject, then here’re some links:   Relativism * Pragmatism * Existentialism * Solipsism * Other

If those are not enough for you, then HERE is a list of all the belief systems in the entire Universe! (Well, all those that the authors of a particular Wikipedea article deemed worthy.)

I believe a little bit of each of those as well; some more than others. What, really, IS Philosophy, after all? A point of inquiry, some say. A world view; others. A stance, I say; a starting point. Somewhere to plant my metaphorical feet at points along the journey, always subject to change and revision. We go through life, and try to understand some things about it. That’s all there is!

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Look up! It’s Hedgehog Awareness week!

Posted on May 4, 2010. Filed under: Culture, HowTo, Musings, Science, Travel |

Admit it, you knew this, didn’t you? I must be the only one who’d blissfully gone about my business, until a startling headline in a forum caused me to look up at it.

I first became aware of Hedgehogs (before they had their own week) upon first having had Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland read to me. I was very young. The scene where the Queen played croquet using flamingos for mallets and hedgehogs for balls upset me terribly. The parental unit reading me the story attempted to indicate this was nothing but a charming bit of nonsense, consistent with the wonderful world of wonderland. I wasn’t buying it. How COULD the Queen, evil as she was, treat them so?

Later on in life, I became charmed, myself, by the creature’s ability to roll itself into a ball, and even allowed myself to be amused at Alice’s Queen’s exasperation when the croquet balls WOULD unroll themselves and go scampering away.

Now, it seems, they are endangered. There is a catch and release program alive and well in England (They’re actually released in Scotland. I have visions of Scotland becoming overrun by live, furry croquet balls.)

Things are looking up for the odd little mammals, thanks to the good work of this society.

Happy Hedgehog Awareness Week to you! :)

National Blog Posting Month

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“Eternal” — a religious or physical concept?

Posted on December 23, 2009. Filed under: Culture, Musings, Philosophy, Science |

Day three of my twelve days of solstice-into-new year meditations contains a quality of the day, and also a gift I’d like to receive for the day:

Day THREE: The Quality of the Eternal; the Gift of Light.

“Eternal Existence” seems, at first to be a religious term. Some (not all) religions offer hope of a continued or new life after this physical one is over. In addition to heaven, if we’re “good”, we may be able to reincarnate, or, just continue on loving and learning but on a higher, non-physical plane. I’m not sure which, if any, of these beliefs I follow, but I’m open to any of them. I cannot bring myself to declare “this is the way it is” and feel that I believe or know a system to be true. I really just don’t know. So, I pick the beliefs I like the best. As some spiritual practitioners say, “we manifest what we think” or as some physicists would say, “results come into being only when we observe them”, I think what we believe or declare DOES matter, and enables us to see the world as we would have it—if only we learn how to use our gifts.

And speaking (writing) of gifts, the “gift of the day” in my meditation series is “Light shining through”! Light, it may be observed, is the most refined of the vibratory waves constantly moving through the universe. We observe it every day the sun shines. Think of all those waves of sunlight reaching us on the earth! And the light is substantial; some researchers say it has weight. When I first learned that the weight of the sunlight on the earth was two pounds per one square mile, I was astonished! We can’t feel it, other than as heat; how can we possibly weight it? But, scientists argue amongst themselves about this. ;) So, if I take in light, comprising some of the most basic building blocks of matter; do I shine light as well?  This picture would seem to indicate that dogs do, at least. :) But when I think of how the sunlight is life-giving, and necessary to our existence, I ask myself what can I say and do that is most beneficial to my fellow beings.

May your light so shine, today.

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The darkest time into light…

Posted on December 21, 2009. Filed under: Culture, Health, Musings, Philosophy, Science, Spirituality |

As Solstice day celebrations begin across the planet, I’m reminded that the Solstice is one traditional celebration we all have in common. Although often associated with pagan, or indigenous, or naturist religions, from a scientific standpoint December Solstice is simply the shortest day of the year (in the northern hemisphere) or the longest (in the southern).

Having said that, the Winter Solstice, in my region, seems to generate a lot of emotional content, as well as religious activity. This year, the solstice occurs today, Monday, December 21st (it can vary, according to which day the North Pole tilts most away from the earth), and Celtic, Druid, and Pagan ceremonies have already commenced. The best-known religious celebration in my region, Christmas Day, takes parts of its rituals from ancient earth celebrations, including the choice of the late December date.

I am engaged in spiritual as well as scientific, cultural, and philosophical inquiry. Although not religious, I respect rituals which connect us to that which we experience as source. I often attend meetings at a non-denominational spiritual center, and one such meeting gave me the idea for this post at this time. On Sunday, the message at the center was about “Twelve Qualities” and “Twelve Gifts”. I think the number “twelve” was meant to coincide with the song “The Twelve Days of Christmas“. As I child, I wondered what the “twelve days” were all about. As far as I could tell, there was only one! It seems that in many religious traditions there have been twelve consecutive days of ceremony, lasting into the new year, often ending on December 6th.

I decided to adapt several traditions to my own liking (as I am wont to do) and have used the “Twelve Qualities” and “Twelve Gifts” to launch my own seasonal meditation, with Day One, today, the Solstice day, and ending with the Gregorian Calendar New Year’s Day, January 1st.

Day One: The Quality of Intuition; the Gift of A still, small voice.

The phrase “still, small voice”, also translated as “voice of sheer silence”, is attributed to the original (“Old” or “Hebrew”) testament book of KINGS: And after the earthquake a fire; but the Lord was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice. (1 Kings 19:9-12).

I first became consciously aware of this phrase when I was singing in a chorus rehearsing Mendelssohn’s Elijah. It’s a very powerful choral work, with a lot of chaos and mayhem, and right after the phrase above comes “And in that still voice, onward came the Lord.” That quote was always a tremendous thing for me. In the “still, small voice”, NOT “in a lot of shouting and thumping” (of which a great deal goes on in this piece) but in the “voice of sheer silence” came the Lord. This is also reminiscent of eastern meditation practices, in which one must quiet the mind to receive the gifts of intuition. I see both the “voice” and the “Lord” in the bible quote to be symbolic of our connection with all that is. If we’ll just stop for a New York minute and listen, many of the answers we seek will come naturally to us!

This insight, or mediation, or whatever I may choose to call it has been very helpful to me lately. It’s hard to believe that this is my first post in December, and that the year is waning. Right after I completed two large work projects, I somehow acquired a condition that set the room spinning when I opened my eyes, and made me feel unpleasantly when I looked at or typed on a computer screen. I am better than I was, and I have taken these events as a call to slow down, and listen to “the still small voice”. I am hoping to listen, or read, more of your voices too, as the days go on. I have poked my nose into your blogs and tweets from time to time, but just haven’t spent much time writing at the computer (you know, because of the spinny thing), until now. What a strange and interesting experience it’s been, as if the world is moving faster than I want or am able to. I’m working on “synching” again, and I’m having good luck with that. It seems this time of year requires a slowing down of activity; a time of reflection, and a feeling of relief as the days start to get longer again and contain more light.

Here’s to the Still Time!

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Nothing “out there” is the reason!

Posted on October 29, 2009. Filed under: EFT, Health, HowTo, Philosophy, Science |

I must have uttered this phrase four or five times during the last group session I facilitated. There were so many things our clients wanted to “blame”! Well, we worked on those things, and then I went home, and confronted myself. I would never ask someone to take a position I wouldn’t embrace. If I don’t “practice what I preach”, I have no integrity. I do think it’s OK to not act integrally, it’s just not where I currently want to be.

So, back to confronting myself about my own stuff: What does this post title mean, anyway? It’s a philosophical position, for one thing, but also a principle of theoretical physics. I don’t know that science defines philosophy or behavior, but, the more I study these things, the more I can’t tell them apart; truly.

Here’s a quote to get us going:

We know now in physics, since *Heisenberg, that the classical ideal of scientific objectivity can no longer be maintained. Scientific research involves the observer as a participator and this involves the consciousness of the human observer. Hence, there are no objective properties of nature, independent of the human observer. …scientists are now not only intellectually responsible for their research but also morally responsible. —Fritjof Capra

So, if there is something not optimum in our lives, here is whose fault it’s not:

The Government; Our Parents; Lack of Education; Too much Education; Our Gender, Race, Sexual Orientation; Our Physical Disability; Our Neighbor with the Barking Dog; Our Unpleasant Teacher in the Third Grade. You get the idea.

The objection I most often hear to this position goes something like this:  “But, that sounds like you are blaming the victim! That’s not fair! No one asks to get cancer, or be mugged, or get into a car crash! This is a mean, elitist, pompous philosophy, with no compassion for people’s real problems!!!”

At one point in my conscious eruption, I felt the need to “explain” when people said things like this. I’d say, “No one is saying anyone ‘asks’ for things that cause them pain. The illness or condition arises out of years of hypnotic programming by a society that thinks matter is causal, rather than consciousness. There is no blame involved, only acknowledgement of the amazing journey ones path has been, so far, and the realization that one can change it once one learns one can, and has the right tools.”

I went on like this for quite a while, because I believed that a questioner had a right to a logical explanation. Also, there was a part of me hoping to convince them my position was the right one—an emotional need which does not honor my actual belief.

Now, I realize that the person addressing me may simply be on a different journey. There is no need for them to embrace my particular truth, as helpful as it has been for me. The fact that they are there, in my life in some capacity, questioning my reality, does say that the questioning is part of the process for them and for me. We both have something to learn from the interaction.

Of course, this restriction doesn’t apply in the groups I facilitate. :) Those attending know perfectly well the principles on which the group operates; they can choose to attend, or not, and if they do attend, they are most likely willing to at least explore the possibilities of shifting their realities in  directions they like better. Given the phone calls and reports we receive, participants lives are getting better—or they think they are, and either way, it’s OK with me!

I read an exercise which illustrates this, and which I’ve done, now. It asks us to list one or two or three things that have happened in our lives which were very difficult at the time. These could involve health issues, loss of relationship, or physical or emotional hardship. It then directs us to find at least three positive outcomes from those issues, and list them. It suggests that we would not be the person we are today, if those things had not happened.

Sometimes we have an ongoing issue, like a chronic illness, which seems to have outgrown its usefulness. Our bodies are dense—in both senses of the word—and often take a considerable time to “catch up” to where we are mentally, or, more accurately, in consciousness. In this case, energy techniques like EFT can help tremendously. We need something to shift the energy out of old patterns of behaviour and expectation.

Mirror-Frame-W-031A- So, arriving home after facilitating just such a session of energy techniques (and benefitting myself, quite a lot, as well!) I find myself wanting to be very careful to put the “blame” for any condition I continue to experience, positively or negatively, squarely where it belongs: on that splendid person looking back at me from the mirror!

*Werner Heisenberg, theoretical physicist, proposed a “field of potential” in developing the Uncertainty Principle in modern physics.
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“Climate Change” is B.A.D. (?)

Posted on October 15, 2009. Filed under: Culture, Health, Musings, Philosophy, Science |

“B.A.D.” stands for “Blog Action Day”, an interesting acronym, considering…

Is there a global crisis? Or just a global point of interest?

I’ve been blogging now for two and one-fourth years, and in that time I’ve had the opportunity and joy to participate in two previous Blog Action Days. The event takes place on October 15th each year. My 2007 post, on “Environment” is here, with a follow-up here; and the 2008 post, which was supposed to be on “Poverty”, but I changed to “Plenty” can be found here, and its own follow-up here.

I fully realize that these “action” days are meant to focus on “activism”. I’m happy to participate with other bloggers writing about the same topic on the same day. There’s something inspiring about that! I salute those who are seeing a way to bring good into the world, and are sharing that with the rest of us.

I just feel, this year, more than previously, that there is a built-in bias in the position taken on “Climate Change” by the organizers and sponsors, namely, that “Climate Change” (at least they’re not using the term “Global Warming”) is human-caused; we are not-nice people for causing this, and that it will naturally spell disaster for our lovely blue planet, unless we act, now!

This is backwards thinking, to me. I would much rather imagine the planet as whole, and functional. I would rather do all I can, as an individual, to live gently on our beautiful home, but trust her to take care of herself. There may be what many perceive to be a crisis, but often in human history, a crisis brings out new and innovative technology and philosophy. I believe that’s entirely possible now.

As a person who likes to look for the best in any situation, I have been accused of putting my head in the sand. This is not necessarily a “bad” thing. I believe it does no good to run around saying “Oh, my! This is terrible! We’re all going to die!!!” For one thing, we are, actually, all going to die. I’ve heard of very few exceptions to that, and those have not been personally verified by me. So, it’s not a question of the fact of our deaths, but WHEN and HOW. If we do our best to live our truths, and to act as examples to others, there is no need to accuse others of “ruining” the planet. We’ll just naturally do what is right.

I’m not in denial about the changing conditions on the world. The polar ice caps do indeed seem to be melting. There is concern about many issues related to this. I’m not, though, entirely convinced that this is a result of human intervention primarily, or that this may not actually be a natural cycle that, in the end, will do the word some good.

Here is one alternative point of view:

GLOBAL WARMING: A Boon to Humans and Other Animals

Now, please believe that I don’t “buy” this article any more than I do the “doom and gloom” conclusions. I am not an environmental scientist; I have not studied this extensively. I do think the article makes some excellent points, and is an interesting read.

We don’t actually KNOW what Climate Change will bring. It may be time for the human species to undergo a change. We tend to resist change, yet change is constant. I find it an exciting prospect to imagine what kinds of innovations will result from our interaction with our earthly reality.

Climate Change *may* be GOOD news. We’ll just have to see. May the world, and all her inhabitants, be blessed today.

flaglobe

***More good news about the environment can be found here.

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All and Sunday

Posted on July 26, 2009. Filed under: Culture, HowTo, Musings, Philosophy, Science |

It’s odd, I’ve often thought, that the days of the week in the English language are named after Norse gods and planetary bodies, yet month names are a mixture of Latin numbers, Roman Emperors, and Rituals, with a Greek goddess thrown in (Maia, or May). We English speakers are all mixed up, don’t you think?

Time and notions about it manifest in how calendars are viewed and used. Most cultures only use one or two; most of the world primarily adheres to one of them, the one that tells me that today is the twenty-sixth day of the month of July in the year two thousand and nine, in the Common Era. These designations, though, have no inherent reality. They are socially-acceptable, agreed upon designations simply for us to be able to make appointments with each other. Oh, yes, and in farming communities to know when to plant and when to harvest. I guess that’s fairly important as it helps us eat! We know that a “year” is approximately one trip around the sun for our earth. It amazes me that cultures have known this for millennia! And again, it makes some sense to break up a large amount of “time” into smaller, more manageable parcels, like the moon’s journey from new, to full, and back again.

And then there is the week. What is a week, anyway? Unlike the month and the year, a week has no particular astronomical association. It does have an historical astrological basis, but, otherwise, it just divides up the month into four equal parts (approximately, depending upon the calendar). We all could have easily decided to divide the month into three weeks, of ten days each! Hah! I know what you’re thinking—that would give us one less weekend!

I work as much, perhaps more, on the weekend than I do during weekdays. It’s challenging to find a pocket calendar which acknowledges this. It’s always a puzzlement, to me (to quote my favorite word from The King and I) that planner/calendar creators, especially of the weekly format (my favorite) think people don’t do much on the weekends. Even people in very traditional business-type jobs have a life, don’t they? And, for many that life continues to include business engagements on the weekend.

I like the Daytimer weekly layout, but look at the weekend! Saturday and Sunday are half the size of Monday-Friday. This reflects business, religious, and cultural prejudices traditions of the western world. My first challenge has been to find an appointment book which gives equal weight and space to the weekends. My favorite layout for this is the Planner Pad. I like the columns and categories, and all the days are exactly equal. But, their smallest size does not fit into a jacket pocket, or a fanny pack (for hikes), and for me, that’s essential. I have written to them about it, and they keep saying the functionality would be gone if they made it too small. Balderdash! The planner I’m currently using has most of the features of the Planner Pad, and is a reasonable size. It still makes “Sunday” either “special” or “diminished”—I’m not quite sure which—and along the bottom, when I’m a linear-type person, but I have a full Saturday, and this one is the best balance so far. Oh, did I mention I also need it to have appointments well beyond 5:00 pm? I’m just getting started, at that point!

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I also believe it’s psychologically significant to consider what constitutes a year, as well. Until recently I had purchased appointment calendars, or diaries, which started on or about the first of January each year, and ended on western New Year’s Eve. (Some calendars would throw in a few days on each end to facilitate the transfer from old to new.) For years, I became somewhat anxious when the days started to run out of the year on my calendar—who knows why? Something about the intensity of the winter holidays in my culture, and the waning year, and the notions of endings and beginnings imposed upon an already busy time made me feel—not quite right. For me, winter has its appealing aspects, but autumn is my favorite season. It makes sense to have a new year start then, as it does in many cultures. There are those calendars which start in the spring, as well, and I can see the rationale there—new growth, and all.

However, in my country there are primarily two types of appointment calendars to be had: “Calendar Year” and “Academic Year”. I find this interesting for a couple of reasons. There are many, many students, and many professionals working in academia who prefer a calendar which starts in August or September and covers the academic year. The period from late August, or thereabouts, through June, or so, represents a complete unit of “worktime” or “studenttime” to them. Why is this so? Why does the “Academic Year” not start on the first of January? After all, most institutions of learning take a winter break, during the last few weeks of December; why not start fresh at the “New Year” with the business world? Wikipedia gives as a reason “The academic year was originally designed for the pre-industrial era when all able-bodied young people were needed to help with harvesting over the summer.“, but I’m not buying it. Perhaps workers were needed for a harvest, but that still doesn’t explain why the “school year” starts AFTER the harvest, when the calendar is a good nine months into the year already. Why not just take off the time needed to bring in the grain, and then get on with things?

It seems to me that, in the west (and I know there are other school terms in the world, and none of these schedules apply to the southern hemisphere), that there are vestiges of pagan elements still superimposed upon the calendar. For many prior cultures, harvest was the most important time; and harvest festival the most celebratory. A year which began with the year’s supply safely gathered and stored away was a marvelous and potent thing.

I have now, for the first time, purchased an appointment book which follows the “academic year”. It officially starts in August, but they gave me a couple of weeks in July as a bonus. I had *no* calendar-transfer anxiety; on the contrary, I felt calm. This felt right, and good, and as it should be. I’m not a student (well, not officially, but I always am, really) nor an instructor, nor a staff member at an educational facility. Before now, therefore, I hadn’t given myself “permission” to use one of “their” calendars. How funny our mindsets can be! I feel this choice has changed my life; perhaps in a small way, perhaps more profoundly. I am just happy to ease into my new year (even before one of the “other” ones I celebrate, namely Rosh Hashanah), in summertime, when “the livin’ is easy“. Shalom.

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