Sunday, January 16, 2005

Day Thirteen: "The Law of Thirteen."

Day Thirteen.

How do we measure time?



We measure it in seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, years. In decades, centuries, millennia.

One second is one sixtieth of one minute. One minute is one sixtieth of one hour. One hour is one twenty-fourth of one day. One day is one seventh of one week.

So far so good.

Then:

One year is one tenth of one decade. One decade is one tenth of one century. One century is one tenth of one millenium.

The odd one out is the month, which, as you know, can contain anything between twenty-eight and thirty-one days.

Which is even more odd, considering that the word "month" is derived from the word "moon", and that the phases of the moon are perfectly regular, and have been one of the measures of time since we first started gazing into the heavens in awe and wonder, all those hundreds of thousands of years ago.

The time that it takes for a full moon to return to being full again is called the "synodic cycle" and is twenty-nine point five days long. The time it takes for the moon to reach the same place in the sky is called the "sidereal cycle" and is twenty-seven point three days long. The average of these two cycles is exactly twenty-eight days, or four weeks long, which is also, interestingly enough, the average length of the female menstrual cycle. There are thirteen of these four-week months in any year, with one day left over. So one lunar month is one thirteenth of one year, with one day left over. The one day left over is our day out of time. Thus there is an exact, proportional measure of a month available to us, which resolves the lunar cycle with the solar cycle in a truly satisfying way, but which, for some reason, we don't use. Instead we divide the year into twelve irregular non-months of twenty-eight, twenty-nine, thirty and thirty-one days.

No wonder everyone is so confused.

No wonder no one knows where we are any more.

Imagine if we measured distance in the same way. Twelve inches is one foot. Three feet is one yard. One thousand, seven hundred and sixty yards is one mile.

Only it's not. Because some miles are longer than others. Some miles have one thousand, seven hundred and fifty-nine yards in them, while others have one thousand, seven hundred and sixty-one, sixty-two and sixty-three.

Well it makes as much sense as our present calendar system.

By the way, did you know that the word calendar derives from the Latin "kalends", which means account book? It was the Romans who were responsible for the original version of our current calendar system. The kalends was the first day of the month when interest on loans was due.

In other words, Time is Money.

And money is eminently accountable.

We can thank the Lord for that.

*******

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