Everything is arbitrary: a series
January 9, 2021
Days and time
At first I started with a rant about how everything is arbitrary. Nothing really has actual significance other than what’s been assigned to it by generations past. My first instinct has always been to just launch into a rant and get as passive aggressive as a situation allows me to get when I ran across something that irritated me. As I’ve gotten older and wiser I’ve taken to trying to research the things I would initially push back against just because I didn’t understand the “why” behind them. I feel like at the very least that approach allows me to make an informed decision as to why something is stupid, and at best it gives me an opportunity to learn and change my mind.
My tirade started with wondering why is Wednesday really any different than Friday aside from the fact that a very long time ago, somebody decided that they were different? Someone decided that Sunday was a holy day because somebody before them decided that Sunday was associated with their preferred god. Weekends are Saturday and Sunday because someone convinced factory owners that their overworked employees would be more productive and happy if they had all of Saturday off instead of just half a day on Saturday before spending Sunday with their families in worship; because Saturday lined up better than Monday. Which, being named for the moon, I feel like Monday would have been the better weekend day.
Time itself seems to be a combination of math and astronomy. Days and months were decided by marking the astronomical cycles of the sun and moon to create a schedule. Life does seem to function best with a consistent schedule and some sort of routine. I did a short dive on the internet and it’s actually pretty fascinating how the origin of days vs weeks started and the names of the days and how they got their order, even if it is mostly arbitrary. The 7 day calendar was decided by the Babylonians, the Romans assigned the days names of their gods once they fully integrated the Babylonian calendar, Germanic and Norse translations and gods updated the names in some cultures, and the Romans determined the final order of the days.
So what’s in a name? What would we call Thursday if Thor had been named Bob? Who decided how the gods were named? It’s really difficult to trace the exact origins of names and words as they relate to ancient gods. This is, I think, mainly because of how far back you have to go to find the information you’re looking for and how poorly records have been maintained in the millennias since things were decided.
Pretty much all of the ancient civilizations tried their best to create answers to things they didn’t understand. That’s where a lot of mythology comes from, isn’t it? The Mayans, ancient Egyptians and Greeks, the Romans, the Babylonians. All of them wanted to know “why” and just made something up because they didn’t have anything else to go on, which is probably why there are a lot of similarities between the different mythologies. Being the person to provide these “answers” didn’t mean you were right, it just meant you gave the first explanation that sort of made sense and other people believed.
What makes the most sense in my head is a combination of a few things. One being that the very confident people of the day with the gift of BS saw an opportunity to be and feel important. The other being that creative people with big imaginations filled in stories to tell for entertainment. Without the science to explain stuff, so many things were total mysteries in the beginning, and after all it is human nature to try and assign an answer to everything.
I know a lot of this is mostly me overthinking details that really don’t make a difference in the long run. It is what it is and nothing is going to change the established system. But really, how is Wednesday any different than Friday other than someone a long time ago decided they were different?