Blog #552 New Years Eve / New Year – eternity!!

New Year’s Eve / New Year

Here we are – the end of 2018, and the start of 2019.  

Some date and time aspects are pretty much the same throughout various cultures in history.  

Dates go back a long way.  Primitive man could see the moon go from being full to a half/quarter/new moon/quarter/half and back to a full moon – in just about one month time.  Early man noticed the seasons. Days were ‘created’ as man noticed a cycle of dark and light. So, days, months and years were created (with months being the least exact).  You could have fixed length months and then have days left over at the end of the year (which was a fixed point/time from when the sun was in a certain position to when it was in the same position).

Hours were harder and were truly man-made.  For most early societies there were days and nights – and you worked from sunrise to sunset.  In summer that would mean longer days and in winter shorter days. If hours had been developed at the time of the invention of the metric system it could be that we would have 100 hours in a day, but hours were developed in Egypt (and other places) as 24 units (or, as 24 hours).  Measuring an hour by day was somewhat easy by noticing the position of the sun on a sundial. Measuring an hour at night was harder without the sun. Water measurements came into play – as it would take about an hour to fill a bucket that would overflow into the next lower bucket.  Eventually, hours were based on hour-glasses – glass devices that would drip sand from one area into another area and take an hour.

So, time was largely set – year orbiting the sun; month for the moon to orbit the early, week made of seven days; days from sunset one day to sunset the next (or from sunrise to the next sunrise); days divided into hours, and hours into minutes and then minutes into second.

But – things were not uniform.  Noon was easy to figure – when the sun was at its peak in the sky.  But, noons were not uniform. When the sun was at its peak in town A, the sun was not quite at its peak in town B maybe an hour ride on the train west.  The trains largely needed to run on time, so it was determined that in a country at precisely X time, it was X time throughout the entire country. And if the sun was not quite at its peak in town A, and was slightly past its peak in town B, the uniformity of time was to be enforced (and train timetables could be arranged.

Now all of the above might be interesting (or not), but by international agreement (and the Gregorian Calendar) December 31st is the last day of the current year and January 1st is the first day of the next year.  (And, even that has slight variations with leap day and even leap seconds). So this is the last day of the year 2018 in the Common Era (or AD – anno domini – in the year or Our Lord – which is nice for Christians – but maybe not so for other religions).  There are still Chinese calendars, Jewish calendars and others that exist. Time is now more officially noted with atomic clocks.

So, today ends one year and tomorrow starts the next (or, if you will, at midnight, the next year will start). And, even that is not quite true as 2019 will have been in effect for several hours in countries of the eastern hemisphere before it becomes 2019 in the Central Time Zone (USA) where I live.

Man has adjusted to time, days start and end; weeks start and end; months start and end; and years start and end.  

As a boy, almost everything had a start and an end.  BUT, then (as a boy), I encountered religion with the phrase “World without End, Amen, Amen” as part of my upbringing.  God was before the world started, and God will be there after the world ends. God is eternal. Even now as I try to adjust my life, I think “So, how did God come to be – since God is eternal.  (Answer – well, Bruce, that is the way it is). But Why is that the way it is?)

Eventually, when growing up, I had to accept “that is the way it is”.  As Maria sings in the Sound of Music, “nothing comes from nothing, nothing ever could”, my mind says “Okay, at one point billions and billions and billions of years ago, there was nothing.  Then there was something. How can that be? The answer is “God”. My life is finite – I was born, I have lived and eventually will die. So, how can anything be eternal? (And still, the answer is “God”).  My finite brain can’t handle this – but so what, life goes on.

So, if tonight you are pondering the end of a year and the start of a new year, and wonder about eternity, realize that is one area that mankind cannot really solve or know, and accepting that “God” is eternal (who and whatever you might conceive “God” to be) is the only real way to go.

Hopefully, I was the only little boy that laid in bed trying to solve eternal issues with a finite mind!!

How about you?


Posted by Bruce White

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