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Leap a Day out of Time

March 1, 2012

This past February was very good to me. On the first day of the month I vowed to work diligently on my writing career and not shave until I managed to kick-start it into being. On the last day of the month I was published.

Of course in a normal year I would’ve been published on March 1st instead of February 29th. I would’ve been published exactly one month from taking my vow instead of within the same month. And while the difference is negligible and certainly not worth lamenting, I do take some small pride in receiving an acceptance note on Leap Day.

Leap Day: that piece of fiction necessary to the Gregorian calendar. Without it our seasons would get progressively out of sync until – after 730 years – summer happened in winter and vice versa. Then, 730 years later, they would re-sync – except that the calendar would be one year behind the actual number of revolutions the earth had made around the sun.

So February 29th came about as a means of maintaining astronomical integrity, right? Wrong. “The Gregorian calendar was designed to keep the vernal equinox on or close to March 21, so that the date of Easter… remains correct with respect to the vernal equinox.” E.G. Richards, E.G. (1998). Mapping time: The calendar and its history.

Our calendar owes as much to culture as it does to astronomy. In the past, Leap Day has landed on dates as varied as February 23rd to December 32nd. There are calendars with leap months. There are calendars which make no sense as I am unfamiliar with the cultures that produced them.

Try as I might I haven’t been able to grasp the 260-day Mayan cycle. I don’t understand how it correlates with astronomical events nor the significance of its mythology. This disappoints me. As I steer my personal culture towards a more natural cycle, I would very much like to find a calendar which reflects that effort.

To date the closest thing I have found is Jose Arguelles’ Dreamspell calendar. It is based on 13 months of 28 days with a day left over to bring the total to 365. The months are much closer to a true moon cycle, and the extra day is called ‘A Day out of Time.’ It offers an excellent opportunity to step away from your normal routine. It can be a day of celebration or a time of quiet contemplation. It can be anything you want it to be. The ultimate post-modern holiday.

The Dreamspell calendar isn’t perfect, though. It also requires a Leap Day every four years to maintain synchronization with astronomical events. But instead of appending itself to the calendar (the equivalent of a Feb. 29th), it is simply treated as another Day out of Time.

Arguelles created Dreamspell as a compromise between the Mayan calendar and the Gregorian one. I assume he realized modern man was too intractable to abandon their established calendar, and he was probably right.

I’ll go one step further. Modern man is too intractable to abandon the meanings behind their established calendar. We observe Leap Day but only in the astronomical sense. We don’t celebrate. We don’t break from our daily routines. If anything we use the extra day in an already short month to get ahead on work or paying bills.

Not anymore. From now on I intend to celebrate February 29th each and every time it occurs. I will – like yesterday – let my daughter stay home from school. I won’t go to work. I’ll claim it as a religious holiday and call in sick if that fails.

I don’t understand why this hasn’t already happened. Is our culture so entrenched that we can’t celebrate a non-religious holiday? What greater opportunity to celebrate than a day which only comes around once in four years?

Another way of looking at it is the holiday we should be having on Election Day. After all, Leap Years coincide with election years; one of those days should be a holiday. Frankly I’d rather work during the election hyperbole than waste a day off watching exit polls and listening to outworn rhetoric.

And I’d rather Leap Day became a recognized holiday than Super Bowl Sunday. Wouldn’t you?

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From → Rants

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