Observations on science fiction, writing, life and whatnot

Another circle, another year, more hope for the better

One more time, back where we started.

Well, we didn’t actually start here, but at one point, we were here, we went away, and now we’re back. Back to this point after a journey of 365.25 days, the periods marked by shadow and light that combined we count as “1” and add each increment until we reach the end.

Or the beginning.

Hard to tell with circles, sometimes.

Like most things humans think about, it’s all couched in convenience. For one thing, the the journey inscribed by Earth in its rotation isn’t exactly a circle. It’s an ellipse, an elongated circle. Circle, ellipse, who cares, one end meets the other and the loop is closed.

Still, even with that closed loop, we’re not back at the same point we hit a year ago. First, there are those pesky fractions. It means the origination point moves slightly each cycle, and every fourth time, an extra day is added, thus throwing the starting point further off. The sun isn’t just sitting in the same point in space, either. The solar system as a whole, Sun included, is moving through space as part of the Milky Way, a collection of planets, semi-planets, comets, asteroids, stars, pulsars, quasars and whatnot. All of that stuff is orbiting a central point like a giant pinwheel, with the probability that the central point is a black hole. The Milky Way itself is moving with other galaxies through space on, we’re told, a collision course with the Andromeda Galaxy. Plus, the Milky Way is part of a larger group of galaxies moving in some grand direction while at the same time generally outward away from a center billions and billions (as Carl Sagan denied he ever said) of light years away. And the universe itself, perhaps in some strange motion of its own, moving somewhere we can’t even fathom.

So the idea of the Earth returning to some point in space it had been before is, at best, unlikely. What we’re marking is one sort-of complete trip around our Sun, a cycle that began when the conglomeration of space debris left over by the formation of the Sun smashed and bumped its way into sort of a sphere and started moving in a path in accordance to a force called gravitation.

If the Earth didn’t rotate, if it kept one side facing the Sun at all time – the way the Moon does for Earth – and if it didn’t tilt and wobble in is orbit, the passage of time as we see it wouldn’t be so noticeable. (What would be noticeable would be one side roasting while the other freezing.) The rotating and tilting gives variation to the length of day – the time when sunshine is bathing the landscape in its warm glow – and night. When the planet tilts one way, the continents and seas get lots of sunshine and warmth, which we call “summer.” Then the planet, despite our fervent wishes, tilts back the other way, and the sunshine is decreased slightly each day until the nights are long, the icy cold blasts of wind and snow come out of the north (south for those of you on the other half of the planet). This is a scary time. If the tilt doesn’t reverse, all will be plunged into endless night. Humans gather at the solstice and wait and watch to see if the length of night slows … then stops … and finally reverses. Cause for celebration! Bring out the beer, the food, light the bonfires and push back the darkness and dance until you drop. The summer is coming, the warm days, time for new crops, new livestock births, time to shed those heavy winter furs. Another year survived.

That’s what we celebrate when the Earth reaches the approximate point it was in a year ago: another year gone, we’re still here despite whatever happened during the preceding 12 months. Survived as individuals, as families, as communities, as tribes, as nations, as a world of humanity. We hope for change in the new year; individual changes (lose weight, quit smoking, get rich), and societal changes (jobs for everyone, an end to hate, an end to war). However, there’s no magic from the completion of the cycle; it’s just another voyage through the zodiac. The desires and wishes are of human origin and as humans, we have to decide for ourselves what needs to be done. And then we have to do them.

You won’t find any answers here. You won’t even find suggestions on fixing things (though, like everyone else, have ideas on what “should” be done). All you’ll find here is best wishes from me to you and hopes that in the new year, nice things, and an occasional great one, happen to you, that the less-than-happy things are few and far between. We passengers of Earth are about to embark on another cycle around the Sun, and though it may be arbitrary, it still has meaning for us. May the sun shine on your path whatever the position of the Earth and may you have a Happy New Year.

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