NASA and MyMoon have teamed up to blog about everything lunar. Art, literature, music, movies, science, and everything in between!
A short preamble; ------------------------ A complete revolution of the planet happens every day, the moon does a cycle in a month. Although we recognize these events we dont celebrate them or revere them. Every 365 the same thing happens again, but we do... why is that ? How is a circuit around the sun any different, really ?
My answer; people are scared of the dark ;)
-- Do you know how far you've travelled through the cosmos on "Spaceship Earth" over a year (even discounting the daily 20,000+ miles for basic planetary rotation ?) This should get you started;
Now that all of the general brew-ha-ha about the holidays is dying down I thought we might take a few minutes and really consider what that was all about. See, I believe in Santa and Jesus as much as the next guy but what I find most interesting about the whole 'festive season' is that when one researches it one finds that the custom is not inherent to any one religion but rather many around the globe celebrate this time of year and it has also traditionally demarked the 'end of the year' (ergo the beginning of the next) as well.
So what, you might wonder, is this 'reason for the season' I speak of ? It is related to the position of astrological bodies far more than anything else. The winter solstice is primary among these events. It is the shortest day of the year because of the position of the planet and this has long been understood. It has also long been exploited by peasantry and elitists for different ends as well. I wont go into too much of that here, but I just wanted to make the point about there being more to the story than just the 'myths'. I intend absolutely no offence to any religion and nothing I've said would really take away from the fact that, say, Jesus could have been born on day X or whatever. My only point here is that the celebrations and the events have been going on for a long long time before and after these individuals or situations that are celebrated on these days.
Even more to the point, New Years Day is not in any way promoted as a celestial event although it would certainly help overall understanding of our place in our own solar system if it were. Very little is said to make any sense of the holidays we experience or their relavence in the modern world. Summers off of school is a similar phenomena. It makes no sense. Originally it was harvest time so childrens parents would KEEP them home rather then send them to school, so the schools figured out it was smarter to simply shut down. But when is the last time any of us worked harvest in summer as a necessity of manpower on the family farm ? It would be ludicrous to give children time off now, if they had always been going throughout the year and someone made a motion to let people off for 3 months the outcry would be insurmountable, yet we cling to this tradition.
I have digressed a little, but I wanted to take a part of this to establish some precedence before the next section, because aside from festivus and new years this year we also paid our dues to the 'mayan apocalypse' !! Again, this was primarily a celestial event, but it became a call to buy provisions and celebrate being alive ... celebrating that nothing happened... of course we didn't really do that, but we did everything else. Millions in media dollars and emergency resources was doled out over another celestial event that most people had very very little comprehension about. Yes, we are entering the age of aquarius finally or something, but really even these zodiac things seem a little worn to me, but nevertheless there it is.
Now here's the wild bit; since we see that these times are usually a catalyst for one group to disobey all regularly imposed structure (taking off work, being silly, talking about myths as a basis for living) ... and another group does everything in its power to exploit any such sentiment (buy buy buy, its CHRISTMAS, CHRISTMAS SALE, LAST DAY BEFORE CHRISTMAS TO BUY, etc etc) and since these are so strongly based on celestial events that were presented improperly... what kind of season can we expect over the next year when several close and possibly highly visible phenomena occour ? Without proper education and information I shudder to think. Especially since by definition any celestial event which is not part of the regular happenings of the cosmos is a deviant force in the heavens, so to speak.
Will we wise up? Will we make new myths? Will we break down ? Will we be afraid ? Will we start to pay more attention to our ideas and our real position in space and time ? Phil Plaits work, seems to speak to some of this and I must laud him on his efforts to educate people on the dangers of asteroids and our ability to potentially overcome them (to say nothing of Paul Allen and Planetary Resources who actually would like to snare one of the buggers!!). It is a worthy area of consideration that can only lead us forward in my opinion. But I think we are all missing the mark by neglecting to better consider the societal impact of, even, a strongly visible near miss. Even if there is no real danger it is an exciting opportunity to exploit the situation for a great increase in peoples awareness of solar mechanics in general if it is done correctly. Without such efforts I do worry how some people might react in their ignorance.
If news people can spend so much time on a mayan misinterpretation, they should also be interested in marketing a meteor fly-by to the people as well. Instead of just causing a bunch of unhelpful and unfounded worry they might actually do some good by expanding peoples awareness and getting them off the myths. We have facts and a global information system now, after all.
Again I'm not trying to take A THING away from anyones religions. Quite the contrary; I'm trying to show how these traditions take away from simple understanding of celestial events. In fact, if you simply wiki WINTER SOLSTICE you can see for yourself how many religions have observances on that day. Also if anything of Christianity or any religion exists in these celebrations - exploiting them one day a year for personal gain is probably not what the originators of such traditions had in mind. Celebrating Christmas makes one no more a Christian than standing in a garage makes one a car. At least if we can accept that we might start looking beyond the interpretations and more to the science of the matter.
Nevertheless I did enjoy my turkey dinner and spending time with family. Perhaps if these times weren't so poignant and ingraned we would do that a little more often, there is, after all the exuinox... oh wait, isn't that easter? I'm still not sure what the bunny and the chocolate nuggets is all about :P
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