It’s All Relative

It’s New Year’s Eve, a time for reflection, and a time for plans. Let us first address whether this whole deal is simply a human construct.

Certainly the ball dropping in NYC is a man made thing. Even the calendar is a man made attempt to organize what is seen in nature. The earth does indeed spin around the sun, we didn’t create that. I don’t believe that there is a naturally fixed point that is the beginning, then we travel for a year until we get back. So that is a problem.

For us to suggest that we have a new year is a little bit like saying we have discovered the beginning of a circle. We can conceptualize this, but it is a construct. The solar system has eight or nine objects that spin in orbits, each full turn could be called a year. We could calculate how many complete rotations of the planet it would take to complete one full rotation around the sun. But of course in actual time it would be different for each object.

So far I have no problem with these facts. The issue is that how do we know when it starts? How do we know it’s the New Year? This is a matter of perspective and relativity. Sitting in my comfortable home I can say the day starts when the sun peaks over the horizon. Yet I know that that sun never sets, that daylight is ever constant, just as night is simply the dark side, moving, but constant. I know this yet I ignore it so I can use the construct to measure something. It’s a little like, an inch isn’t an inch, it’s only the King’s knuckle bone.

This is a fact but it is not helpful. In my experience the sun rises and sets, and I mark this as a day. Using that measure I can project the knowledge that it takes 365 (plus a fraction) to completely orbit the sun, and this becomes a year. Arbitrarily, we set the beginning of the circle on Jan 1st. It’s all a fib, but it helps me place the ground for my fulcrum.

Technically, every day is the new year as far as the orbit goes. Perhaps at some point we can fix a reference point, like a brass ring on the carousel, and we can truly know where the circle starts and where it ends.

Until that time we live with our construct. 365 days that don’t exist, creating a new year that could be every day.

My head hurts…

For the sake of knowing, there is too much fact that isn’t fact at all.

About johndiestler

Retired community college professor of graphic design, multimedia and photography, and chair of the fine arts and media department.
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