Saturday, February 25, 2012

Leap Year: Why Our Calendar Is So Weird - And What You Can Do About It

You probably take it for granted: every four years, we add an extra day to the month of February. The month is day-deprived, after all; deserving of an additional 24 hours every now and then.

This may not strike you as peculiar; it's akin to the grade-school rhyme we memorized in a futile attempt to become better spellers: "'i' before 'e' except after 'c', or when sounded as 'a' as in 'neighbor' and 'weigh'." Heck, the English language is way more whacked than the Gregorian calendar!

But this anomaly is only because we adhere to an off-kilter solar cycle. Using the time-keeping system most of the world's been accustomed to since the Middle Ages, we need Leap Years to align the calendar with the Earth’s revolutions around the sun.

Why Leap Year?

It takes the Earth approximately 365.242199 days (a tropical year) to circle once around the Sun. Since a Gregorian calendar year consists of only 365 days, we'd lose nearly six hours every year if we didn't "course correct" every fourth year.

But it gets stranger, Horatio.

Qualifying to be a "Leap Year" is a bit like applying to get into Calendar College: three crucial criteria must be met:

• The year must be evenly divisible by 4;
• If the year can be evenly divided by 100, it is NOT a leap year, unless;
• The year is also evenly divisible by 400.

Yikes! Good thing we have built-in calculators now.

This means the years 2000 and 2400 are Leap Years, while 1800, 1900, 2100, 2200, 2300 and 2500 are NOT leap years.

Got that? There'll be a quiz next lifetime.

The year 2000 was also somewhat special, as it was the first instance when the third criterion was used in most parts of the world since the transition from the Julian to the Gregorian calendar.

Holy Roman Empire, Batman!

If only Julius had stuck to salad dressing. Still, he was more flexible about what constituted a Leap Year than today's criteria. When Caesar introduced Leap Years in the Roman Empire over 2000 years ago, the only rule was that any year evenly divisible by 4 would be a leap year. Evidently Julius' crowd didn't contain too many math wizards. This system has far too many Leap Years, though it wasn't corrected until the introduction of the Gregorian calendar more than 1500 years later.

There may not be a perfect calendar, though there have been other creative options used over the years, such as a 30-day February.

13 Moons of Synchrony

Personally, I've long lived by the 13-Moon, 28-day lunar calendar envisioned by José Argüelles, who proposed it as a way for humanity to leave mechanized time and enter harmonic, natural cycles — the path of synchronicity. In a 13-Moon calendar, every month has a harmonious 28-days (which also corresponds with the female menstrual cycle) — and 13x28 = 364. The additional day is celebrated between July 25th and 26th, which correlates with the heliacal rise of Sirius and is honored as a "Day Out of Time," of peace and celebration. And there's another bonus: on a 28-day monthly system, every Friday is Friday the 13th, a reclaiming of the number thirteen as a sacred symbol of transformation, not something to be feared and avoided.

So I invite you to experience the expansiveness of living in tune with all life. José used to say, "Whoever owns your time, owns your mind. Own your own time and you will know your own mind."

There's never been a better time to leap into this knowing than now, on Leap Day. Blessings!

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