On calendars

“There are about forty different calendar systems currently in use in the world. Some of these systems replicate astronomical cycles according to fixed rules, others are based on abstract, perpetually repeating cycles of no astronomical significance. Some carefully and redundantly enumerate every unit of passing time, others contain mystical ambiguities and metaphysical discontinuities. Some are codified in written laws while others are transmitted by oral tradition.

“The common theme of each system is the desire to organize the calendar to satisfy the needs and preoccupations of society. Besides simply serving the obvious practical purposes, this process of organization provides a sense, however illusory, of understanding and managing time itself. Thus calendars have provided the basis for planning agricultural, hunting, and migration cycles, for divination and prognostication, and for maintaining cycles of religious and civil events. Whatever their scientific sophistication, or lack thereof, calendars are essentially social covenants, not scientific measurements.” (George Grant and Gregory Wilbur, introduction to The Christian Almanac)

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