Sunday, August 30, 2009

Marking Time

We mark the passage of time in multiple ways. The tickings of a clock, the turning of a page in a calendar, the number of candles on a cake. All of these are artificial, of course, as our divisions in the flow of time are largely arbitrary things. The turning of the seasons doesn't follow the days on the calendar, and things ebb and flow regardless of how we choose to designate their passing. We attempt to impose order on things that do just fine without us.

It's cultural, of course, this obsession we have with dividing time up into neat little categories that we can check off as they pass us by. Other cultures follow different divisions, mark the passing of the year differently, even the number of the years. We here in the West have imposed a certain order on the rest of the world, a certain clock and calendar, but beyond that (and some times in spite of that) the rest of the world moves on it its own way.

One of the things I learned while living overseas was that the concept of observing one's birthday, and making a big deal out of it, is very much cultural. Not every society does this, which to my mind was missing a great opportunity for cake and ice cream if not presents. But it's just not that big a deal in other places, and so the day goes largely unobserved, in favor of other ways of marking the passage of time.

There is also the passing of the seasons, which, I'm sad to note that it's not quite September yet and already there are Halloween items in the stores. I know Fall is just around the corner, and I look forward to it, but I refuse to gear up for the holiday two months in advance. Ditto with the Christmas season. I love Christmas, treat it like Scrooge after his conversion, but I am not going to start listening to carols before the end of November.

(Day after Thanksgiving, yes, but that's tradition, and when the tree goes up. Which, in my family, is how we mark the start of the Christmas season.)

So, as of today, it's been another year for me. And while if the rest of my year is as good as today I should be in good shape, in some ways it does feel pretty much like yesterday, and the way I expect tomorrow to feel. I mark the passing of this day, as do my friends and family, but really, the world at large takes little notice.

Which is perhaps for the best. I don't have enough cake to go around.

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