(# …It’s just a matter of time… #)
If I were the Secretary of the Bureau of Weights and Measures and had the power to change our present calendar, this is what I would do. I would change the 12 months to coincide with the 12 Signs of the Zodiac. As it stands now, all the Signs overlap two months each. Why not begin the year on the Vernal Equinox with Aries and go from there? Half of the months would be 30 days long and the other six would have 31, with no need for a shorter month like February. It’s a much simpler system. The year begins at a specific astronomical designation and each month begins as the Sun enters a new Sign. The name of the month is the same as its Sign. At least half of the month names we use presently are obsolete or inappropriate anyway. September, October, November and December, for instance, used to be the 7th, 8th, 9th and 10th months, respectively, hence their names. What set the calendar off are the later-added months of July and August, who were named for the Caesars and who are dead and gone now, so the hell with them.
A good time to change over to the new calendar would have been at the turn of the millennium at the end of 2000. We could have extended the year for the extra 80 days and started the New Year on March 20 (or 21). The only major adjustment we would have to make is our birthdays, for the sake of preserving the astrological sanctity of our actual time of birth. We would just convert them to the new dates. So instead of September 5, my birthday would then fall on Virgo 15. Of course, there would be agencies and published charts to help you with your conversions, if you can’t figure them out for yourself.
Okay, now that I have reformed our calendar format, let me go a step further and do something about the time. I have been around the world—as far north as Alaska, as far west as Tahiti, as far south as South Africa, and as far east as Japan (well, Okinawa, actually). So I have traveled through many time zones and even crossed the International Dateline three times. I understand that with the size of the earth and where the sun is in different parts and at different times of day, we feel the need to adjust the hours accordingly. But once while I was on tour and traveling back and forth between several time zones and making phone calls to friends in various locations, I realized how confusing it is to keep track of what time it is in different places. Time is merely our method of measuring the hours of the day, and since it’s all relative, it doesn’t matter what we do exactly, as long as we standardize it in some way. The animal and plant kingdoms don’t care about time. They just do what they do whenever.
I realize that it would take some getting used to, but I wish that the whole world could be put on a common time system where it is the same time everywhere on earth. We could do away with time zones, changing our clocks back and forth twice a year, and constantly having to figure out what time it is in other parts of the world. We could still use Greenwich, England as Control Central, so that when it is noon there, it is noon everywhere else as well. Of course, in some places it will be nighttime, but so what? Noon does not have to be the so-called middle of the day. It just refers to 12:00 PM.
In fact, the word noon has changed its meaning over the centuries anyway. The original Latin connotation during Roman times meant “the ninth hour after sunrise,” but where in the world and how often does the sun come up at 3 AM? So why don’t we just dispense with terms like noon and midnight and ante meridiem and post meridiem altogether and just use the 24-hour system like the military and in most places of the world outside the United States? No matter where you are in the world, noon then would be 1200 hours while our present midnight is 2400 hours, regardless of whether it’s light or dark. So then the live Oscars telecast begins at 2000 hours (8 PM) in Hollywood, just as it does on the east coast. Since everything is recorded anyway, the other countries can air the program when it is convenient to their particular location.
While I’m on the subject of time measurement, I’d like to point out an observation that may be an error of international proportions, depending on how you calculate it, which concerns the current millennium. Of course, we are eighteen years into it now, but this was newly relevant when I first wrote this. A millennium, by definition, is a period of 1000 years. Now if they started counting anno domini at Year 1 (The Timetables of History makes no designation for the Year 0), then the first one hundred years went from 1 to 100, the second century began with 101, and so on. Therefore, the 21st century did not begin until 2001, the year 2000 being just the last year of the last century, the 20th. So unless one of the last two millennia equaled only 999 years, the next one did not begin until 2001. Why the anxiousness? It was only one more year. I’m not the only one who is aware of this, I don’t know why the media has not corrected this probable misconception. Maybe they will get it right by the turn of the next millennium, or even the next century.
Although it is the exact same situation, you might notice that people are not so eager to advance to the next year when it comes to their birthdays, however. They will hang on to the current year until the last minute. Most don’t want to be any older than they have to be. When people give their age, they tend to give the number of the last year of life that they completed instead of the year that they are currently living. So they are actually the next year older than they claim to be.
For instance, if I want to, I can call myself 71 until my next birthday in September, although I am already in my 72th year of life. But for me, after each New Year, as my other friends, who were born in 1947, are having their birthdays, by the time mine rolls around, I have already accepted my next higher age number. What we refer to as a birthday is really the anniversary of the day we were born, which is one‘s first birthday. So your daughter’s “16th birthday” means that she really is starting her 17th year of life, but it is the 16th anniversary of her birth. On my next “birthday,” therefore, I will be turning 73, but I will be only 72 years old.
The United States is the only world power nation that does not employ the metric system. I suppose that it is more useful, practical and more exacting than our system, but I wish that somebody had had the foresight to adapt the metric system at least as early as the fifties, when I was young enough to learn it. Our system is so ingrained in me now, I haven’t bothered to learn the other one, short of using conversion tables and such.
Another primary teaching oversight, that I don’t understand, is why the number zero is not acknowledged when we are first taught to count. One is not the lowest number. There is an amount that is less than one, that is not even theoretical. Since it is possible to have none, we need a number to denote it, and that number is zero. Our series of number symbols begins with 0, not 1, goes to 9 then starts all over again with a new series. Where does 10 come from if we have not yet established 0 beforehand? To avoid confusion and common mistakes, I wish that the number keys on the top row of a computer keyboard would be arranged left to right from 0 to 9, respectively, rather than 1-0. However, the keypad area on there does have them in the correct order. What’s up with that?
Zeros figure into every kind of mathematical computation. Any number subtracted from itself is zero. In determining a negative designation, we first have to pass zero. In one form of Dominoes, players earn points by adding the pips on the ends of the layout formation. If one player has just made 15 points and another places the double blank domino to the configuration, they have thus added zero and receives 15 points also. Due to zero’s prevalent use in everyday situations, it should always be included in our basic counting and numbering systems. With a binary system, at least, zero is acknowledged and quite prominent. It begins with 00, then 01, 02, etc.
Okay, I admit that I’m trying to make things easier for myself, and that may be somewhat selfish on my part, but I couldn’t be the only one who thinks this way. I wouldn’t mind if the whole world were required to speak a common language, too, preferably English. People in non-English-speaking nations would be allowed to continue to employ their own native tongue, so they all at least would be bilingual. The most likely and most practical choice of a global language is, of course, English, and not just because it’s my own first language. It’s already spoken by more people around the world, except for Mandarin Chinese, which has the most speakers worldwide—but please, don’t make us have to learn Chinese!
The attempts to make Esperanto the Universal Language has not worked out, so why not give American English a chance? English is probably not so difficult to learn if begun early enough. It’s already taught as a second language in most countries of the world. As far as vocabulary goes, one advantage of modern English is that it is made up of so many other languages as it is. As many of our words are foreign in origin anyway, we can just continue to add to it by culling specific words, especially nouns, from all the other languages of the world. That’s how it is already, so everyone already has a good head start. Then no matter where anybody goes in the world, they would be able to communicate verbally via English.
I believe that our speaking a common tongue might even bring us closer together as people. Some might think these ideas of mine sound a bit Communistic, but even if they are, they have nothing to do with national politics or economics. I consider it as more Socialistic. I see it as a way of improving the world’s social conditions and simplifying things for all of us. Doesn’t that seem to be the wave of the future, simplification?
Another established convention that I would like to change is two lines of a very famous holiday poem. You see, I like poetry that rhymes, and this one couplet bothers me as the only flaw in an otherwise perfect work. It could easily have been corrected if done another way. In Clement Clark Moore’s A Visit from St. Nicholas (aka ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas), when he is naming the eight reindeer (he doesn’t mention Rudolph or Olive), it goes, “Now, Dasher! now, Dancer! now, Prancer and Vixen! / On, Comet! on, Cupid! on, Donner and Blitzen!” I’m sorry, but Vixen and Blitzen do not rhyme! That’s like when Carly Simon in her song “You’re So Vain,” tried to rhyme Saratoga with Nova Scotia [?!].
But there are two names in there that do rhyme, Dancer and Prancer. So why didn’t Moore put those two names at the end of the lines? One possibility would be: “Now, Blitzen! now, Donner! now, Dasher and Dancer! / On, Comet! on, Cupid! on, Vixen and Prancer!” What, who is Olive, you ask? You know. Olive, the other reindeer…used to laugh and call him names?
Only a little less annoying is the liberty taken with the rhyme scheme of the lyrics of church hymns. The poets of some of these hymns go more for spelling similarities rather than true rhymes. They commonly like to rhyme heaven with given and striven. Some others are merit and spirit, beneath and death, come and home (sometimes womb), and Lord with word–but ward, which does rhyme with Lord, they make it to rhyme with guard. But the one that always gives me pause is the hymn that features this quadruple non-rhyme: blood, food, God and stood.
My impressionability and appreciation of poetry stems from the cleverness of its construction and the rhythm and rhyme scheme. I think that poetry should be a verbal challenge that follows certain rules. That’s why I don’t fancy free verse poetry that has no restrictions or limitations to it. Anybody can write anything and call it poetry. For me, literary and poetic art are determined by form and content, the exception being that if the text is sung, then it doesn’t have to rhyme. Comedic performance artist Anna Russell used to say, “In grand opera you can do anything, as long as you sing it.” That goes for any form of literature as well.