Wednesday, February 29, 2012

FEBRUARY 29, 2012

AOG, Madrid
Leap year. That means one extra day. Not that it matters much. Unless you were born on February 29, which means today is your real birthday since, according to our calendar, today occurs only once every 4 years.

This morning, as I was running towards the bus, I picked up one of the free papers so readily available on Madrid’s streets these days. 

On it, there was a headline  which somehow brought it all home to me: “I got my driver’s license on my 5th birthday and I retired on my 16th”. 

Isn’t that wonderful? That possibility of living and celebrating things within your own universe? Of living on this world but dictating, or at least, living by the odd dictates of a calendar based on reality, as it opposes our natures?

What do I mean by that? Well, it is obvious that the Earth rotates as it pleases,  but that we have a measuring system created many millennia ago in the Middle East somewhere. 

 It was the ancient Sumerians who came up with the sexagesimal system (one based on the number 60) around 2000 BC. 

That is 2000 years before Jesus (if you believe in things like that) was born. Nobody knows why they came up with the sexagesimal system, but it is with us today. 

How many seconds in a minute? 60. How many minutes in an hour? 60. 

However, today it is more or less proven that it was the ancient Egyptians around 1500 BC who thought of dividing the day into smaller portions. Certainly they seem to have created the first sundials.

So we, as a species, long ago chose to make sense of our planet by breaking it down into smaller, more maneagable parts. Even if these have little to do with reality, or, at least, reality as we perceive it. 

This alternative real reality (real because it is a fact that this date only happens every 4 years, and it does happen) also tends to permeate our lives, except, perhaps, we don’t give it much credit.

For example, my family, my partner and I all live in different cities. And when we meet, the important calendar dates have gone by, or they are about to. 

Hardly ever do we get to be together on the date itself. St Valentine’s, Christmas, birthdays and anniversaries are celebrated by us within our own alternative time frame.  For example, last year, we celebrated Christmas with my family on the 30th of December.

This year, my partner and I celebrated St Valentine’s Day on the 18th of February, and then again on the 25th. Twice? Yes, twice. 

Both times there were gifts exchanged, vows given and words said. 

So, is keeping dates all that important? Probably not. A couple of years ago I got to celebrate my birthday about 2 months later. 

The celebration was just as wonderful as it would have been on the day itself. Probably better, because it meant we had all been waiting to celebrate together.

I will admit to a small personal superstition: nothing is ever celebrated ahead of time. Why? I don’t know. It just doesn’t seem right to celebrate things before they happen.

Perhaps it has to do with my mother telling my sister as a child never to put a veil on her head or she would never marry. And never to say wishes out loud in case they don’t come true.

I remember reading that in China, people think that the Gods are jealous of children, so they never say things like what a beautiful baby, or what a healthy looking child, in case the Gods get envious and harm the child. 

So it is "Bad baby! Bad baby!" all the way.

Are the Gods crazy? 

I remember reading a cartoon about the political situation in Spain. In it, there was an image of people rioting, and a couple of bankers, or politicians, (men in suits anyway) looking at the rioters. 

One of them asks: “Have they gone crazy?” 

The other replies: “No. They have gone sane”.

When you realise that in Spain the unemployment rate is about 20% of the working population, and that there is very little social unrest, the caption makes complete sense.

Just like 29 February.