Did you feel it? The Earth swung past a certain point in space; there was a little spacetime “bump” as we ran over the notch. Didn’t you feel it?
It’s kind of an important point in the cycle. Lots of people stay up to watch it happen. (Although, I grant you, the whole thing is about 10 days late. Problem is, back in the day it took them a while to recognize what had happened.)
To commemorate the occasion, some will look back and some will look forward. And some will riff on how this is an arbitrary moment in time that doesn’t mean anything at all, really.
Except that it isn’t entirely arbitrary. That’s kind of what this post is about.
It’s also a post to look forward. The backward-looking one was yesterday, of course, so I’m covering all the bets!
I may have mentioned that I’m the sort who likes looking forward more than looking backward. I’ve noticed this as a (software) coder. Some like to keep version points as they work. If they get into trouble—the code just isn’t working out—they can roll back to the last good version point and try again.
I hate trying again! A pet peeve of mine is having one of those little “Oops!” moments that result in lost work. Having to redo the last hour or so of work… It. Makes. Me. Nuts. For one thing, it can sometimes be hard to recapture exactly what you were doing. It’s frustrating to think you might have found a good way to do something, but may be unable to recapture it!
That dislike of repetition expresses itself in other ways. When I walked my dog, we always walked in a loop of some kind so as not to repeat any part of the path. (And we varied our path as much as possible.) I used to do the same thing going and coming from work, but recently construction forces me to go and come along the same path. (Disliking repetition is why I dislike cleaning. It’s the same thing every time, over and over.)
But I digress. The point is, as a coder, if I get into trouble I tend to bull my way forward trying to fix the situation rather than go backwards. As a traveler, I prefer new roads and paths. (As an eater, I prefer new restaurants.) I revel in The Road Not Taken, the unplowed field, the unknown path.
How about this: the first time I was arrested, part of me was fascinated by the whole (new!) process. Being hand-cuffed, finger-printed, questioned by detectives. Spending the night in jail. Scary, and yet… fascinating. A lot of it’s like on TV.
A lot of it isn’t.
In general I don’t have too many regrets. They’re about evenly divided between the ones involving not taking opportunities and those involving things that were bad for me or someone else. I’ve tried not to hurt others, but I’ve gone my own way, and those two goals aren’t always compatible.
But here’s the thing: the past can’t be changed anyway. Learn from it, resolve to do better—make amends where you can, where you need to—and move forward.
But once again, I digress. Set that aside; on to the heart of the matter!
As to the importance of the date, the bloggers who attack it for being arbitrary are mostly right. The Winter Solstice, of course, is a prominent astronomical event that marks the season, it hovers around December 21 or so.
As I mentioned above, part of it is that it simply took them a while to realize that the days were, in fact, getting longer. And it takes a while for a culture to first figure this out and then erect large permanent structures that help them compare sunrise (or sunset) with the position of stars in the sky.
Eventually the astronomers get sophisticated enough to start tracking the moon and to create lunar tables. Once that happens, the moon tables help to tell time, and using those with star charts help you navigate. About then is when you realize you screwed up on the whole “end of the year” thing, but it’s too late because you’ve gone and printed all those calendars.
Some cultures even celebrate their year from equinox to equinox, which makes a good bit of sense. The spring (vernal) equinox is when the world really feels like it’s waking up again (at least in the Northern Hemisphere), and there is a feeling of birth and renewal.
One difference is that there is only one Shortest (or Longest) Day day in the year, whereas both equinoxes are have equal-length days. That does make June and December stand out.
End of Chillaxmas
Final day of Chillaxmas!! (8th day of Christmas; hang in there for four more! You’re going to end up with a lot of Drummers, Dancers, Leapers and Pipers, so put out extra towels and try to keep the noise down.)
So for this last day of Chillaxmas, and this first day of the new solar cycle, I’d like to offer you some forward-looking things from my own Life Toolkit™. Perhaps you will find them as useful as I have. And for fun, I’ll do it a little bit like the end of that song I’ve been referencing constantly.
A-one, a-two, a one-two-three…
FIVE Guiding Stars to find for yourself. Principles to follow; compass points in the darkness of the world. Seek them and keep them in your mind’s eye. Mine are:
I want to live in a world brightened by the light of these stars, and I will devote myself to following them.
FOUR Square Legs on which to base your work life. Upon this stable platform build your reputation and professionalism, for they will stand you in good stead throughout your career. I have a plaque at work that reads:
Own your work (be responsible), strive for excellence in everything you do, seek to understand all that you do, and use precision (it leads to excellence).
And actually this was a bad idea, because I got nothing for three and two.
So let me just jump to the last wish:
A Goal for Change: Expect from our politicians and sports figures the same standards of behavior and professional excellence as we do from our airline pilots and doctors. Expect from ourselves the same standards we would look for in our kids’ teachers or even our bank teller.
It’s funny that it all comes down to a silly line in a silly movie. And yet, in a way, that line really says it all:
“Be excellent to each other, people!”
Work kicks in again for me tomorrow, so I may not be around as much as I have been. It’s been fun! See y’all when I can!! Have a most excellent 2013!