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!

notebook

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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7 Responses to “All and Sunday”

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Muse i just loved this one.. we have much more to do in weekends but none of the diaries seem to see that as an important fact.

i don’t wrire appointments in diaries but i had a habit of writing diaries.. and i could only get my hands on my father’s extra ones… so when i had done a lot on sundays i found the space too less to write all i had done. πŸ™‚

this post just talked about what i used to think.

and yes about the week there is no significant solar or lunar cycle… how did they decide on 7 days.. instead of 10 or 12 (dozen).. they were intelligent to not do that.. we need those weekends… πŸ™‚

english is a hodgepodge language with influences from virtually every language in the world! that is the fascinating thing i’ve learnt as an english major in college. i did a paper on french loanwords in the english language and thoroughly enjoyed learning the history behind it!

as for the academic year bit, i wondered about that when i was young, as malaysians start their academic year in january because we have ‘summer’ all-year round. πŸ˜‰ i suppose it makes more sense to end the schooling year during spring, because continuing it after summer would probably leave most of the students rusty of the skills they picked up in class! i certainly don’t do much studying on any school holidays, what more the year-end ones. πŸ˜›

about the diary, i noticed the same thing myself when i was buying one as a christmas present for my dad. he uses it to write his daily expenses, so he would be pressed for space when it comes to jotting down weekend expenses! but i managed to find one that gives equal space for the weekends and weekdays. πŸ˜€

I don’t have anything in particular to say about calendars or the like, but I liked this post. And this:

How funny our mindsets can be! I feel this choice has changed my life; perhaps in a small way, perhaps more profoundly.

It’s amazing how the smallest of choices can have the largest effects on our lives. And who’s to say whether they’re good or bad? Again: that farmer/zen master story.

I’m sorry to bring that back up – actually not really – but I’m so focused on my life at the moment and it’s truly incredible how, only now, after realizing how small decisions have shaped my life tremendously for better or for worse, that story truly resonates with the core of my being.

All I can say is I’m so pumped for my next post! Hopefully my enthusiasm’s contagious!

Very refreshing πŸ™‚ I forgot how writing diaries feels like.

Thank you, Oorja, I’m relieved, and appreciative of your comment. I’d wondered if this was just me going off on one of my tangents, πŸ˜‰ it’s nice to know you can relate! I found it interesting that the 7-day week really had no particular religious or scientific basis; I’d always assumed it had. Maybe we should campaign for six five-day weeks per month—only three workdays, and six weekends! πŸ˜€

I’d actually be very interested in reading your paper, sulz! I love to learn about the derivatives and influences. Maybe it’s a good thing English is such a hodge-podge, as it’s rapidly becoming the universal language. With all the borrowed words, there’s something there for everyone!
Interesting point you bring up about getting rusty during school holidays. There have been recent studies here in the US which indicate that students lose several months of comprehension during those long summer breaks. Three months is just too long to be away. There have been experiments with a year-long schedule. The students would still get holiday time, but more evenly divided throughout the year. The challenge would be to coordinate all the schedules of different family members so they can take vacations together.
Ah, so you’re one of us! I’m sure your father appreciates having the extra space for the weekends; that was thoughtful of you to find that. And you work weekends, too!

leap, your comment reminds me of the analogy I often read, about airline pilots. We think they fly a straight course from point A to point B, but, actually they’re “on course” very little of the time. It’s the constant course corrections—either by human or computer—that get them where they’re going. As for the farmer/Zen story, you’d needn’t be sorry; (since you’re not, anyway!) πŸ˜‰ I think it’s very nearly the best story in the Universe. I am anticipating your post!

Thank you, Kiran. I like the word “refreshing” for this. It makes me smile. πŸ™‚

What a difference a calendar can make! They may not be inherent, but I’m glad we have the units of time that exist. If nothing else, the mishmash of different ideas and cultures that gave us the units of time we have provides us with an insight into our past.

But surely an academic year appointment book leaves no space for weekends, since the schools are only open five days a week?

Huh! I hadn’t thought of a calendar as an historical document, B0bby. Having a history, certainly, but “the mishmash providing insight” is a new view.
Well, see, that’s just the thing. Students and scholarly staff have LIVES on the weekends, don’t they? Besides, we have some Saturday classes in Uni here, do you? (Not mandatory, just available.)


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