Sunday, May 04, 2014

Time is fleeting.

Now is the present moment, when everything is. Looking more prosaically beyond the existential truth of the present moment, what more do I know about now? Where I am on Earth it is day, and the sun is shining.

It's a little past the middle of the day. I realise it's quite difficult to think about now, without trying to locate it in reference to the past or future. Digging a bit deeper into ideas about now leads me to human systems of time that locate now mainly in terms of what has come before. In the Common Era calendar, it is now the year 2014 C.E. This is the Gregorian calendar, probably most commonly used worldwide. It is also referred to and is identical in years to the Christian calendar, in which it is 2014 A.D. This stands for Anno Domini, which translates from Latin to mean approximately 'in the year of our Lord', referring to the number of years since Christians believe Jesus Christ was born. The Gregorian is a tropical solar calendar, calculated according to the position of the Earth in orbit around the sun with respect to the equinox. In the Hebrew or Jewish calendar, it is now the year 5774 A.M. Here Anno Mundi refers, in Jewish belief, to the approximate number of years since the world was created. This is a lunisolar calendar, mainly based on lunar cycles but including leap months (seven times every nineteen years) which align it with the solar year. In Ethiopia it's now 2006, because, while Christian, the Ethiopian calendar is based on a different calculation of the date of the Annunciation of Jesus, from which starting point its years are counted. The Ethiopian calendar is also a sidereal solar calendar, in which one sidereal year reflects the time taken by the Earth to rotate around the Sun with respect to the fixed stars. For Muslims around the world, today is the year 1435 A.H. in the Islamic (Hijira) calendar, dated from the first day of the year in which Muslims believe Mohammed migrated from Mecca to Medina, a migration known as the Hegira (Hijira). A.H. stands for Anno Hegirae. The Islamic calendar is also the official calendar of Saudi Arabia. The Islamic calendar is an entirely lunar calendar. In Iran and Afghanistan it is the year 1393 S.H. (Solar Hijri) as they use the Iranian calendar, which begins on the vernal equinox in Iran. While China officially uses the Gregorian calendar, the Chinese calendar is also important, which indicates that it is now the Year of the Horse. In the continuous year numbering system adopted by some Chinese people, it is now the year 4712. The Chinese calendar is also a lunisolar calendar. Meanwhile, the Long Now Foundation refer to this year as 02014.

Today is about half way between the Spring Equinox in the Northern Hemisphere (also known as the Vernal or Northward Equinox), when the day and night are almost equal in length all over the world, around 20th March, and the summer solstice, the longest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere, around June 21st. In the Common Era and Christian calendars where I am today is May 4th (I've already enjoyed the traditional salutation: May the fourth be with you). This is the fifth month of the year in those calendars. But bearing in mind the international date line (quite a feat of international cooperation) it's already May 5th on the other side of the world, in some Pacific islands, in New Zealand and in parts of Russia. Today's Hebrew date is 4 Iyar, the second month of the year, despite Rosh Hashanah, New Year's Day, being at the start of Tishrei, which is the seventh month. The Islamic date is 5 Rajab, in the seventh month of the year. For Muslims in some locations it may be 4 Rajab due to differences in determining the visibility of the crescent moon that indicates the start of a month. The traditional Chinese date today is 6 Wu-Chen (Dragon). The Ethiopian calendar is based on the Coptic calendar, and the years and months in both are the same length, and begin on the same days, but have different names and numbers. The Coptic calendar is still used by some in Egypt, where today it is 26 Paramoude. In Ethiopia, it's the 26 Miaziah. In the Common Era and related calendars, the new day begins at midnight, while in the Islamic and Hebrew calendars, the new day begins at sunset.

What has all this taught me? That now is now, but it is different to different people and all over the world. There is a modern human sense of separation from nature, and the sometimes painful feeling of being 'always on' around the clock without relation to natural cycles greater than the ceaselessness of machine time. Yet the way humans define now is still powerfully about our relationships to the sun, the moon, the stars and our planet.


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