The clean four calendar weeks of this February reminded my friend Kelli Anderson of “The International Fixed Calendar,” a 13-month calendar which she summarized this way:
• 28 days in every month
• Each week begins on Sun. / ends on Sat.
• Dates fall on the same day of the week every year
• To total 365 days, there’s a floater day
• From 1928-1989, Eastman-Kodak made all employees use it (wut??)
Here’s how the case was made in 1927 in an issue of The Outlook:
A “MONTH” does not mean anything. A day means something, A year means something. But a month? In the vernacular, what do you mean, month?
We cannot scrap our days or our years without scrapping the sun. We could but we do not want to scrap our weeks. Religious tradition, long habit, and convenience combine to make the week a very acceptable division of time. But we can (and, if we once come to see the awkwardness and inconvenience of them, we will) scrap our months….
A month is a wholly irrational division of time. It has no relation to anything in astronomy, or human experience. It is an inaccurate and varying measure of time that is a constant annoyance in business and a misleading unit in science. It has no religious significance.
A month is nothing but just a bad habit.
Harsh! But, I mean, they’re not completely wrong. Months are wacky! The idea of carving up time into new, industrial-friendly units seems insane, but then, all calendars are a little insane…
In Katherine Swift’s The Morville Hours, she writes:
Mankind has always had trouble with calendars. As human beings our personal experience of time may be infinitely elastic, but as societies we have always needed calendars, to fix future dates and record past ones. The earliest attempts may date back thirty thousand years. The trouble is that the natural markers of the passage of time — days, lunar months, and solar years — are all incommensurables. Attempts to combine them in a single calendar inevitably run into trouble. Taking the day as 1, the lunar cycle is approximately 29 days, 12 hours and 44 minutes, and the solar year 365 days, 5 hours and 48 minutes. The seasons and the calendar have always had a tendency to drift apart.
Going back to that issue of The Outlook:
Long before the Christian era the Egyptians had a better set of months than we have. Then came along Julius Caesar and robbed February of a day and named one of the longer months after himself. Then came along Augustus Caesar and he took to himself the month that followed Julius’s, but because he wanted a month that was just as big as Julius’s he added a day to it. To do this he stole another day from February. Then he changed around some other days and left the set of calendar months in a jumble. And ever since then we have been putting up with this arbitrary arrangement as if it were as fixed as the tides and the circuit of the earth around the sun.
Now that every day is Groundhog Day, man-made time seems even more oppressive to me. With every new month, I think, “This’ll be the one!” and five days in, I want to murder it, and murder the calendar along with it.
If we have to have calendars, I do enjoy ones that that break me out of old ways of thinking about time. Last year, I had a lunar calendar hung up in my office, but this year we put up an astrological calendar that a fan sent me, not because we believe in astrology, but just to make time feel a little different, a little novel.
See also: Circular time vs. Linear time. Filed under: time