Category: Philosophy

Unbalanced News

Unbalanced News

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I don’t watch the news much.

The news I get comes from mostly online sources, but a lot of the news broadcasts I find rather very slanted or deliberate fear mongering or both even on our national news broadcaster, and perhaps that’s just the way our society works, very much picking and choosing what gets broadcast to target whoever the primary audience is.

Online, I can get a broader variety of things, I can see more of what is available worldwide, not just what the local broadcasters care to show me. No one wants to spend money, so even the big networks only have a tiny handful of people to cover international news.

Even nationally, though, things get slanted horribly to what someone thinks should be the news.

For example, I am continually frustrated by the ongoing Humboldt Broncos coverage.

Now please don’t mistake my meaning. It was a horrible tragedy: a whole bunch of young hockey players lost their lives. But I don’t see why the “hockey players” part is relevant, except because we live in Canada, it is. If I believed for a second that a bus load of soccer players or rugby players or kindergarten students would get the same level of attention, I seriously doubt I would roll my eyes every time another story about one of these young fellows triumphing over his injuries or how one of the families is carrying on after one the kids didn’t make it home. I wouldn’t be happier, necessarily, but I’d probably be less cynical about it.

The real problem, in my eyes, is that here in this country we seem to value hockey above almost anything else. Terrorism, for example. The Humboldt crash had daily coverage for months on our national news broadcaster and on the prime national news show just about every night.

But when a terrorist ran through a crowd of people in a van in downtown Toronto, killing ten people, we heard about it for a week or so, and switched back over to the bus load of hockey players. Finally, just last night, a follow-up story as to how things are doing families.

When another terrorist opened fire with a gun on a crowd of Danforth Avenue, killing 3 and injuring 14 people, a couple of months later, we heard a lot for a week or so, and than once a month for a bit, and now it’s been I don’t know how long since we had anything.

But, you know, hockey.

Quick Google News searches:

“humboldt broncos bus crash” 205,000 results

“Toronto van attack 2018” 153,000 results

“Danforth shooting” 19,700 results

Be well, everyone.

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It’s Easy To Be Angry

It’s Easy To Be Angry

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It’s easy to find things to be angry about.

All you really have to do is look around with your eyes open.

I more or less wear my politics on my sleeve and they very simply boil down to people over profit. That’s not as hard to reconcile as you think with the industry I work in, although sometimes it’s more difficult than I’d like it to be. But, people over profit is the primary thing. It’s much more important to me that people are taking care of and that people, generally speaking, put other people ahead of things.

You might guess it’s very frustrating for me to live in North America right now, and while Ontario isn’t nearly as bad as I regard the federal government in the United States, not yet, it’s not even remotely as far behind as I would like. Ideology has its place, but, whether any one particular person wants to admit it or not, not all ideas are not created equal, and some ideas are just bad.

So it’s very, very easy for me to find things to be angry about these days.

I don’t want to spend my life being angry, however, so I want to find things to be happy about, and that’s a lot harder.

So I’m open about my politics, and my particular flavor of lack of religious beliefs isn’t far behind, really. That wasn’t always the case, but those are getting more open all the time and I’m less concerned with what other people think of what I think, only that I’m setting a good example for my family, friends, and the people around me.

But does my own ideology make it harder for me to find things to be happy about? Does it set me up for probable failure when I’m looking? Those are both questions I need to answer, but they don’t mean that I need to change my ideology of her true (ideological changes should come from ideological examination). It may mean I need to look harder, and it may mean I need to get off my ass, stop complaining so much, and actually tried to change the world.

All that is required for evil to triumph is for good men to remain silent.

Silence helps the oppressor, not the oppressed.

Silence implies agreement.

I’m not naïve. I recognize that my politics and beliefs make their way to my writing. That’s normal, natural, and human. But even when I’m writing a character who has viewpoints that are complete opposite of mine, I do try to make that character sympathetic if they are the direct antagonist or even if they are partially opposing the primary story arc of the protagonist. Remembering that no one is the villain in their own story, I have put mental guidelines in place to make sure that I’m not demonizing someone in the story just because their character doesn’t look at the world the way I do in the real world.

My blog is a place for me to be more open and honest. So, to be frank, is social media. Politics and philosophy are both fairly open for me and while I certainly believe in healthy discussion and rational argument, I also believe that you can’t, and shouldn’t separate the art from the artist. I tend to think that the stories that I write and put it there can be enjoyed by anyone of any political, philosophical, or religious outlook. It’s almost all genre fiction, so you need the suspension of disbelief, recognizing that you’re not in the world as we know it. If you follow me personally on social media, or read this blog, you get closer to the real me. A lot closer, really, then anyone other than family and friends get. Until the time comes when I push enough of my energy into the idea of open activism for causes I believe to be important, it will be very easy for someone to read my stuff, enjoy it, and find more of it, without ever coming here or to Facebook or Twitter or wherever I might be hanging out electronically. But once you do, it will be a lot harder to escape or ignore what I actually think about things.

So, if you’re reading this, you have a couple choices. You can do something I can’t, separate the art from the artist, pretend you never found what you’re reading, and enjoy myself fiction wherever you find it.

Or you can decide we’re different enough that you can’t possibly support me in any way. I’ll be okay with that, really. Everyone needs to find their own path, see the world through their own eyes.

Or you can decide we’re not too far apart, maybe have little interesting discussion here and there, hang around for a while, read with me.

Or, I suppose, you can decide that I’m completely right about everything, but that seems unlikely.

I think it’s actually considerably more complex than any of those four choices, with as many variations as there are readers. My preference? Whether or not the water is fine, it’s here. Maybe it’s different. Maybe we could talk to each other about stuff, maybe we can teach each other something. Come on in, the water is the water.

Be well, everyone.

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Notre Dame

Notre Dame

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So the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris partly burned down. Historical significance, cultural significance, religious significance, architectural significance, etc. Yes, it is kind of sad this beautiful historic landmark, whatever other things be culturally or philosophically impacted, has been gutted, but there are arguments to be made on a variety of points.

First, I will not argue that it’s not a cultural treasure, because it is. If I were to visit Paris, the Cathedral would certainly have been on my list of things to see, at least from the outside. Very much not at issue.

Things that are at issue are people’s reactions. I don’t just mean the religious reactions, because some of those are as predictable as they are disingenuous. I wondered how long it would take for the pictures a service of some cross that survived fire for people to start justifying how God was great and how do not believe in him now. The cross being used for that, and it only took a few hours, is made of solid gold, which melts somewhere around 1100°, and the wood fire burning in the funeral was probably only 700 or 800 degrees at best. Not to mention that there’s a whole lot of stonework and actual woodwork that’s completely untouched, including pews in the same room. And candles right behind it. Anyway, my question for every situation, is why did God or down the church just save one cross? What point is he making? Why not not burn the landmark church down?

No, I’m more concerned prioritization of things over people by Western society, and in this case, I’m particularly centering of the rich. It took less than 24 hours after the fire was out for half a dozen billionaires to pop out of the woodwork and, collectively, offer the equivalent of something like 1.2 billion dollars to restore the church. Many people’s initial reactions, and I’m including most the media in this, was wow, how incredibly generous of these ultra-rich people to give up big chunks of their personal fortune to restore this national treasure. Isn’t that awesome?

My initial reaction, you might guess, is a little bit different. And I’m not the only one having it.

Disregard for a moment that the Cathedral is actually owned by the French government, because it’s not owned by the Catholic Church, let’s pretend there’s no one responsible for maintaining the church and it’s just burned down with the same relative significance. And now the same half dozen billionaires step forward and offer hundreds of millions of dollars each to fund the restoration of the ancient building.

Sorry, but once again, my response is going to be a fairly hardy screw you.

And it’s pretty simple reasoning. Probably the same reason that those same billionaires are so rich, whether they got that way themselves inherited from previous generations. Screw you.

Do we need to expand on that?

I’ll start by assuming they were all billionaires before the Cathedral burned down, which seems fairly safe and likely won’t make an ass out of either of us.

What is the homeless rate in France? Do all French citizens have equal access to healthcare? Are there people in France who go to bed hungry at night?

But no, let’s applaud these individuals for stepping forward to restore something that’s actually owned by the government and will get tax dollars for the years-long restoration project.

Now, let’s extend that to every other Western country, just to begin with. What’s the homeless rate in the United States? Does everyone in Germany have equal and unfettered access to healthcare? Are there people who go to bed hungry in Canada?

There are ultra-rich people in every country. And people in that class step forward with like crap this all the time, saving the physical representations of our cultural heritage.

Most of the rest of us struggling in some fashion for at least some of the time over at least some aspect of our lives. That group of people, those billionaires, the ultra-rich, will never know what an actual struggle is, to be concerned about meeting the bills next month, covering debt payments, paying for groceries this week, keeping tjhe electricity on. Worry about how much time they have to take off of work when their child is born because paid parental benefits are poverty level or worse.

I ordinarily hate sweeping generalizations, and before I get too far down the rabbit hole making this one, I’m going to point out that not everyone in this particular socioeconomic class is a giant douche bag. Bill Gates springs to mind. Richard Branson, Andrew Lloyd Weber. Check out any reference to the Giving Pledge.

But if it’s a struggle to come up with even a dozen examples of people using their giant fortunes to actually do good in the world, and half a dozen complete unknown billionaires spring up overnight to try to look good in front of the camera by donating to restore a cultural landmark, what does that say about the most financially advantaged class of people in our society?

You’ll note I haven’t yet suggested we look at any of the less developed parts of the world.

Reminding everyone that I don’t believe in separating the art from the artist. To make my politics completely clear once again, I am far more concerned about people than profits or things. I think we all should be.

Be well, everyone.

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Dunning-Kruger vs Shuhari

Dunning-Kruger vs Shuhari

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Related image
Lovingly borrowed from Psychology Today.

The Dunning-Kruger effect is a close personal friend of mine.

I’m sure you seem to means, my favorite being that the first rule of Dunning-Kruger club is that you don’t know you’re in Dunning-Kruger club. Boiled down, without math or graphs or anything, it’s a cognitive bias that essentially says the skills you need to understand whether you are good at something or not are the same skills that you need to actually be good at that thing.

If you’re unaware of the effect, graphically it looks like a super steep line when you first learn something, peaking way above actually being good or knowledgeable about that something. So, early on, when you learn just a little bit, you think things are easy and that you’re really good at it. And then you learn a little bit more, and there’s almost as steep a drop-off into understanding just how ignorant of the subject you are. It drops into a bowl that, very slowly over time and learning, you come out of until, at essentially expert level, you figure out that you’re more or less doing okay.

Thank you, Wikipedia.

There are also a variety of concepts of cyclical learning spread across the world, but I like the Japanese version the best, which I may have discussed before: Shuhari. Emulate, adapt, transcend.

I try to look at both of these things together, really. A lot of the time, I know just how not good I am at something. In terms of cyclical learning, I’m still in the emulation phase. Looking at what people are doing around me, seeing the things that work well and don’t, and adapting my practices as result. I read, study, learn.

On good days, when Mr.’s Dunning and Kruger are my friends, I actually feel like I’m on the upward curve of the bowl. I’m in the adapt or extend phase of learning, providing the right example to the people around me, and being good at whatever job it is I’m doing at the moment. There are even flashes of transcendence, moments, hours, even days sometimes when I feel like everything is just working right, when I’ve got a grip on things, when I’m making things work, when everything is going well and I’m making a difference. Those never last, of course.

Most days are a mixture of the three, with, over time, more and more in the middle zone, where I’m maybe on the upward curve, mostly in the adaptive phase. But then there are days, or even weeks, that kick my ass.

Every morning, I should stop and wonder what kind of the day today will be. On Monday’s maybe it’s what kind of week.

I guess I just have to wait and see, and do my best at whatever I turn my mind to.

Be well, everyone.

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People Are Hard

People Are Hard

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Hard. Complicated. Difficult to understand. I think a big part of that problem is that every person is different, even if we can consider certain general personality traits that reach across many people.

I think I’m wired differently than most people, although I’m not sure that was always the case. I do think it’s possible to adjust your own mental wiring, to decide there are things you don’t like about yourself or your personality and consciously over time change them.

I grew up in a certain environment in a certain time. Paired with my genetics made some significant impacts and adjustments to how I look at the world, how I perceive people, and how I react to things. But our experiences change us, and if we continue to learn and grow, we will never be the same person from one day to the next. We learn and understand new things and some of those new things change us, and some of those new things we change. More frequently, both, if there other people involved.

But we can consciously make the choice to change how we think and feel about something or someone. Or to not change how we feel. We can decide we don’t like how we react when confronted with a certain circumstance or situation and then we can decide what we think the right reaction should be. After that, it’s just a matter of practice, when confronted by that situation, of stopping our initial reaction and consciously replacing it with what we want that reaction to be. Eventually, given enough repetitions, the reaction we want becomes the preferred one, and probably even slightly more tailored over time.

But is that my wiring or general human trait?

Over the last decade or so, I keep hearing the phrase brain plasticity, about how things can adapt and change inside your brain even deep even old age. About how we can change and learn and grow at any stage in our lives, if we want to.

But not everyone does, and not everyone wants to. You can’t choose the things or situations or people the universe puts in front of you, but you can choose how you react to them. And while self-interest is important, it’s not the only thing. I’m not quite certain how we got to the point culturally where it is the only thing.

I’m angry about a lot of things, all time, culturally and socially. I don’t do as much as I could to change them. I could do more.

Self-interest is important, but it’s not the only thing.

And there are times, and quite a few people, where self-interest crosses over into selfishness.

I like to be the soft and fuzzy guy, the guy who puts things in as positive a light as possible, who sees the best in everyone. Some people make that difficult, but sometimes, there comes a moment, a realization, when you have to cut things short with that person. Some people refuse to be reached, refused to engage in actual conversation. I usually keep trying to engage long past that point. A character flaw, maybe. I do believe that most people are reachable, most people are able to have actual dialogue, even if it seems like an increasing proportion of them don’t want to. That’s a learning process for me. Something that, maybe, I have to alter my reactions to.

I do like to be soft and fuzzy, I do like to find the silver lining in things, I do like to see things and people in the best light possible. But when the person I’m dealing with doesn’t, and walls, and can’t even consider meeting me partway, am I throwing good time after bad?

People are hard, people are complicated. Don’t expect that to change.

Be well, everyone.

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I Kind of Hate Christmas

I Kind of Hate Christmas

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Is it worth it?

Confession time: I kind of hate Christmas.

Okay, maybe hate is too strong a word. And I don’t necessarily mean the basic concept of Christmas itself. Whatever religious significance you’d like to attach to the holiday, to me Christmas is the gatherings of family and friends, a sharing of thoughts and time, a reminder of the important things. Whatever particular version of a particular holiday you choose to celebrate this time of year, I’d be willing to bet that those things are somewhere close to its core.

Unfortunately, that’s not what our society is trying to force down our throats, and hasn’t been for a really long time.

What we have is Christmas decorations for sale starting as early as the long weekend in August. As the calendar advances, they take up more and more space, barely giving away anything to Thanksgiving, which, due to its nature of it primarily just being about being grateful for what we have, has a hard time completing, hence the spread of the black Friday plague. It grudgingly allows some space for Halloween, which people like to celebrate with a sugar overdose, but before those decorations can come down on the first of November, Christmas is in full swing. The music, the decorations, the moral outrage that the holiday isn’t what some people think it is, the public displays of over-consumption and conspicuous goodwill.

No other holiday requires two full months to celebrate and three more to remind us that it’s coming.

So yes, I hate Christmas. But what I hate about it, we’ve done to ourselves.

If it makes you happy, if you find joy in it, you can have your annual debt increase and smoking credit cards. You can have your ridiculous pile of decorations and your inflated electric bill. You can have your rampant materialism and consumerism and all your shiny new toys. You can even have your table-breaking, seam-splitting, belly-bursting, enough calories to survive on for a month Christmas Day feast. I’m good, thanks. I’ve had enough.

I’ll have my family, a quiet meal in a safe place, and as much time with them as I can manage. I’ll have my friends where I can find them, a shared drink, and a toast to warm memories.

“It came without ribbons. It came without tags. It came without packages, boxes or bags. And he puzzled and puzzled ’till his puzzler was sore. Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before. What if Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store. What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more?” (Dr. Seuss, How the Grinch Stole Christmas!)

At least, he thinks it used to.

Be well, everyone.

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Faith-Based Schools

Faith-Based Schools

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusrssyoutubeby featherThe title of this post should probably serve as a warning.

I have a great deal of sympathy for children sent to the faith-based schools.

Yes, that sounds patronizing, and, I suppose, to a large extent it is. But, in the vast majority of cases, those children are being cheated of anything resembling a real education or a legitimate, functional worldview. If school is supposed to, at least in part, help prepare you to join the real world, a faith-based school only does so if you stay with in that same faith-based bubble after you graduate. Try to move beyond that bubble, and you will be confronted by a harsh reality that not only do most people not share your particular bubble, but some significant portion of them will actively push back against you, and if you’ve never been exposed to anything that disagrees with you, it seems unlikely that you will have any significant defense against it.

I think, if that happens, there are only a couple of possible choices for you. Question your beliefs and worldview, and either adapt to the world as it is and merge your views with reality or watch your worldview and beliefs crumble under the pressure. Alternately, you can choose to deny or reject anything that doesn’t match up with your comfortable beliefs, and either become a crusader against the infidels and those you will see as oppressors or retreat back into the bubble your parents carved for you.

I don’t feel like there’s a lot of in between.

Either way, the parents of those children in those faith-based schools have deliberately set out to make their children’s lives far more difficult than they need to be. The modern world is a difficult enough place as it is. Why would you want to make it harder for your successors, biological or otherwise?

I’m not adverse to the concept of faith, whatever higher power you might like to attach to it, at least until you decide that the rules governing your faith also apply to people who don’t share it, but a lot of people who are so secure in their faith they pity those of us who don’t share it (or try to demand that we share it anyway) don’t seem to understand that they also live in the modern world. That’s a choice, and one any adult is free to make, but don’t parents usually want better for their children?

At least, I thought that was the idea.

Be well, everyone.Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

My Bullshit Meter

My Bullshit Meter

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusrssyoutubeby featherWinter is certainly on its way a little earlier than usual this year, or maybe I should say earlier than in most recent years. To me, at least, it seems odd for it to be particularly cold in November anymore, and I know we’ve had early morning lows in -5 to -7 range already. In fact, we’ve had daytime highs in the zero area. There has been snow. It didn’t stay, but there has been snow.

While there’s plenty of bitching about the weather, I’m very glad, so far, to have not overheard any bullshit about how global warming is obviously myth after all, because look, it’s cold outside today, and it’s only November.

Perhaps my bull ship meter is a little too finely-tuned lately, but I’m certain my reaction on overhearing that person is going start out along the lines of, “You’re fucking with me, right?”

Again, maybe I’m just a little too sensitive to bullshit lately, but I’m less willing to let the normal, everyday stupidities go, and more likely to call out obvious troll behavior both in the real world and in my online interactions.

In fact, fairly recently, I deliberately and specifically called someone a troll online, someone I’ve known for some years, and I think it shocked the hell out of him and a few people who happened to be looking the right way at the time, at least based on at least one a response I got and a couple of people liking that initial response. But when you’re posting something you know is stupid and factually incorrect in order to get a reaction, and even more specifically to get a reaction out of certain people on your friends list, that’s pretty much the definition of Internet troll behavior.

It’s notable that a couple of people agreed with me calling out the behavior, and did so openly.

The person in question never unfriended me after the conversation that resulted from my statement, and, so far as I can tell, that person did stop posting pseudoscientific bullshit, so even if it actually cost me the limited friendship that person and I shared (coworkers, really, and my subordinate most of the time, which doesn’t mean we couldn’t of been friends, but does put some extra restrictions on what relationship might have occurred) and possibly the goodwill of several other people who weren’t actually in my friends list begin with, just because of the way I approached. A limited engagement win, in my mind.

But I have found, as I move to become solidly entrenched in middle-age, I am less inclined to let stupidity pass. To borrow from an ancient Roman quote, qui tacet consentire videtur. He who is silent is taken to agree.

To borrow from Elie Wiesel: We must take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.

What I do know for sure is that not enough of the reasonable people stand up against stupidity or crackpots, whether it’s smack talk about climate change, standing up the to Anti-Vaxxers, verbally rolling eyes at champions of organic myths, or folks who are just plan anti-science. Not all opinions are created equal, and just because you have one doesn’t mean I’m not allowed to disagree.

And I just might.

Be well, everyone.Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

Perception Is Not Reality

Perception Is Not Reality

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusrssyoutubeby featherIt’s actually a stupid statement, whether you mean it literally or figuratively, but it’s been so often repeated over the last several decades and in so many places that it bears making the point again.

Perception is not reality.

But people do react to their perception, and the picture they built in their heads of you is a reflection of how they perceive you. It’s entirely reasonable to remember that every person you have ever met has a different perception of who you are. That perception can never be based on complete data and always comes coloured with whatever life experience and mental baggage they are bringing to it as well. That’s a piece that most people miss. Who you think I am is in part based on your experience of the world and how that experience has shaped you. And you probably no more know the real me than I know the real you.

And most the time, that doesn’t occur to most of us.

Perception is not reality but people react based on their perception of reality.

I do think it’s reasonable, however, that once you learn of some person or group’s perception of you that you examine that perception. Not so much to find out if you agree with it not, but to examine your actions and motivations to see if that perception might be reasonable in their eyes.

Let’s say your perception of me is that I’m a giant jerk. What if the way I see things is that I’m constantly in a position of having to make quick and concise decisions without the ability to be able to explain those to everyone every time. If I examine that through your eyes, can I see how you might see it that way? Can I then soften my approach?

If your perception is that I’m slow to act and wishy-washy, but my reality is that I’ve strong preference for information gathering and making as informed decision on something as possible, and then, perhaps, changing course when new information becomes available, can I see how you might view me that way? Can I see that you’ll be surprised if I pull you up short and cut you off on something when a decision changes because I’ve got new information?

In either case, I’m not responsible for your perception of me, but in both cases I am responsible for my presentation me.

And let’s muddy the water a little more. Can both of those perceptions result from the same set of actions? If you only see the quick, decisive action, then maybe I come across as a giant jerk. If you only see the slow gathering of information, slow decision, and flip-flop, then maybe I seem slow to act and wishy-washy. If you see some piece of the slow gathering of information and after perception that I’m soft and weak but the decision, when it comes, is quick, decisive, and doesn’t fit with your view, am I both wishy-washy and a giant jerk?

Are both perceptions true at the same time? Is neither? I don’t know. I can’t see inside your head.

Only I know the reality of who I really am. But I can also fool myself, and many people do.

Perception is not reality, but it does matter.

Be well, everyone.Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year!

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusrssyoutubeby featherI don’t follow the calendar much for cultural reasons, at least not for cultural reasons tied to the culture I live in. I pay attention to important dates in my family’s lives, and a couple of key things that everyone celebrates, one of which is New Year’s.

Personally, I find the January 1st designation a little arbitrary. Well, the whole calendar is a little arbitrary, really, but it’s been far less than 300 years since the New Year was moved by British Parliament to January 1st from March 25th, which I will grant is rather longer than normal human lifespans, but January 1st as the start fresh date is relatively recent, and other calendars use different dates. Personally, I’ve always thought that the calendar should be a little more tied to the physical world. Make the equinoxes and solstices the anchor points and go from there, but I didn’t get a vote.

From a more personal perspective, I prefer to count years from my own birthday, my own specific orbital completions.

But I’m stuck with what we’ve got, I suppose, like everyone else, and it does give me markers for a one-year period that would be intelligible to anyone who picks up any of my logs or posts.

So, since New Year’s is a major event in our shared calendar, I hope everyone had a happy and safe one and that 2018 unfolds in the best way possible for everyone reading this.

If that isn’t clear enough, I’ll just say be well, everyone.Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather