Friday, September 23, 2005


What is today?


Friday, September 23rd?

Friday, September 23rd, 2005?

Today is both finite and infinite at the same time, both fleeting and forever. Today is always going on – it is the everlasting present in which you exist. And yet, for all its ubiquity, there can only be one today. Defined, today is the period of time bookended by 12.a.m. last night and 12 a.m. tonight. So today is every day...but it is also a single day. And for all of the many days in our lives, I might submit that there’s really only one. Which one, you ask? Today, of course.

Yes – just one. For most of us, barring an unanticipated apocalypse, there’s probably going to be a tomorrow. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Tomorrow is, as Annie would say, always a day away. Today I’m talking about today – and there’s only one. How else can I put this?

What’s the date today? September 23, 2005? Okay – there will only be one day with that date, and then it’s history. Just one single 24-hour period in the vast, unimaginable history of the universe (for how long, or short, as we have known it) that we have named September 23, 2005. We give it this name so that we can look back and reference it if we want to. Instead of saying the day before the day before the day before the day before yesterday, we simply say September 18th, 2005. Dates make talking about time a little easier.

Anyhow, since there’s only one September, 23, 2005 – which happens to be today – then there’s really only one today. And I think that makes today pretty damn special. Don’t you? Further, there will only be one day with tomorrow’s date, September 24, 2005. One day in all of recorded history. That’s what makes each day so special – while they all run together to form weeks and months in neatly grouped patterns of time, each day is incredibly unique in unfathomable ways.

But there have been many September 23rds, you say. That is true. There have been many September 23rds – dating back to the very first September. That would have been around 753 B.C. when Romulus, the founder of Rome, threw together a 10-month day planner based on a Greek lunar calendar. September was the 7th month on that calendar, which only had 304 days for the entire year, thanks (wishfully, perhaps) to the exclusion of about 61 days of winter. A lot of us wouldn’t mind excluding 61 days of winter if we could, but good luck getting your congressman to give that suggestion more than a courtesy chuckle.

While we’re talking about days, here’s another interesting tidbit. The early Romans originally had 8-day weeks instead of 7. Their days corresponded to the first 8 letters in the alphabet, A-H, and a “market” was always held on the 8th day, so the weeks were called Market Weeks. It is unclear whether the Beatles had the early Romans in mind when they sang “8 days a week.” Just as the Beatles learned that 8 days a week were not enough to show they cared, it was soon discovered that 8 day weeks were not mathematically practical for documenting the earth’s journey around the sun. Some edits had to be made.

A number of tinkering Romans tweaked the calendar to their liking in the years that followed, the most notably being Julius Caesar and Pope Gregory XIII. It was Caesar’s Julian Calendar that gave us the 7-day week as we know it.

Sunday – Dies Solis (day of the sun)
Monday – Dies Lunae (day of the moon)
Tuesday – Dies Martis (day of Mars)
Wednesday – Dies Mercuri (day of Mercury)
Thursday – Dies Iovis (day of Jupiter)
Friday – Dies Veneris (day of Venus)
Saturday – Dies Saturni (day of Saturn)

You’ll note that Friday is named for Venus, the Roman Goddess of Love. And Friday just happens to be today – can you feel the love? Sure you can. Now if everyone will just hug one person tonight, maybe we can put a little love back into Fridays. But I digress…

The Julian calendar adopted in 46 B.C. was actually identical to the Alexandrian Aristarchus' calendar from nearly 200 years earlier. It consisted of 12 months and 365 days, with an extra day every fourth year to round out a solar year. That’s pretty much what you and I are used to today. Pope Gregory XIII later decided to make a few revisions in 1582, primarily to correct for a drift in the dates of significant religious events and observations, like Easter. And there you have it – a brief history of the calendar. But let’s not let today get away from us.

There have been many September 23rds, and with any luck at all there will be plenty more to come. But there will only be one September 23, 2005. Today is its own day – similar to many other days like it, yet very unique. How exactly is it different?

All of the variables in the equation of life are in constant flux. Heavenly bodies are moving all around us. The universe is expanding, or so folks with big telescopes tell us. Perhaps more noticeably, the state of our planet is always changing. Weather is always changing. Wildlife is always changing. We the people are always changing. People die. People are born. Every single day there’s a whole new mix. And things seem to be changing faster today than they ever have. Centuries ago, very little seemed to change in the span of ten years. Some indigenous cultures in the remotest places on earth still notice very little change from day to day, week to week, and year to year. As a result, their concept of “time” is remarkably different from ours. Some of these cultures don’t even have words like “when” in their lexicon! There is no concept of time beyond the present. There’s only right now. Only today.

The civilized world on the other hand is preoccupied with tomorrow. Everything is a forecast. Never mind today, what’s going to happen tomorrow? So much of today is spent planning tomorrow. And then tomorrow comes and what do we do? We spend it planning the next day. Do we ever just stop and live for today? After all, there’s only one.

The other day I started filling in the boxes of my calendar at work – not with the things I planned to do in the weeks ahead, but with the little things I did in the days behind. Every single square tells its own story. The day I watched the first episode of Survivor. The day Geri and I met a bunch of friends at the Guinness Oyster Fest on Division Street. The day we enjoyed sushi on my rooftop as the sun went down. All days gone by – and not a single one subject to change. The days in the boxes ahead, however – those seem pretty much open for whatever. Anything can happen. Perhaps that’s why we spend so much time thinking about them. There’s so much hope in the future. Hope for the best – whatever that might be.

As I write this, life is changing. September 22nd is gone and not subject to change. September 23rd is happening now. Can you feel it? Sure you can. Stop, look, and listen. Smell, taste, and feel. That’s now, baby. Don’t panic – this is how now is supposed to feel. It feels weird to slow down – we’re so used to speeding around from one thing to the next. But of all those squares in the calendar that we fill with little notes, reminders, and stuff to do, only one really matters.

Today is Friday, September 23rd, 2005. There will never be another one. The idea is to see how many of yesterday’s hopes you can fit into today’s box – because tomorrow can’t be enjoyed. Tomorrow is an illusion. It’s a movie in your head. It’s not until tomorrow becomes today that you can appreciate it. Which brings me back to my original question: What is today?

That's easy.

YOU are today. Isn't that what matters?


barnyardfriend said...

Carpe diem indeed, my friend.

...better yet, Carpe Cerevisiae

Connie H. said...