Friday, November 04, 2011

That Was the Year That Wasn't: Year Zero

I. So, I'm born into this calendar system and have been using it for as long as I can remember, the one that says this year is 2011. That is, Anno Domini 2011, A.D. 2011, 2011 A.D., In the Year of the Lord 2011. It often strikes me as weird and a little off-putting. I faithfully date checks, documents, diary entries, blog posts and so on using this scheme, because most of the people I interact with use it, too. But what's it all about?

II. Where's a calendar to start? With the emperor's ascension to the throne, the queen's coronation day, the start of the Revolution, the birth of a religious figure, or from the date of some Earth-changing event?

III. One thing to note about the A.D./B.C. (Before Christ) dating system is that it's off kilter. Almost nobody (among scholars and religious experts) believes that Jesus Christ was born on this coming Christmas Day 2011 years ago. In fact, there is no exact consensus of birth date. Estimates now range from 2 "B.C." to as far back as 18 "B.C.," with death (in human form) dating to between 29 and 36 A.D.  In other words, "all that seems solid melts into air" once carefully considered. No wonder, as the cliché goes, ignorance is bliss! 

IV. In the B.C./A.D. system, there is no Year Zero. As constructed, the years flip from 1 B.C. to 1 A.D.  This is truly a strange system for thinking about -- or even trying to grasp -- chronological time.

V. How often do we deliberately "do" a countdown in modern life? 

a. New Year's Eve, countdown to the next year. 
b. Sporting events.
c. Medical/scientific events.
d. Ultimata (ultimatums).
d. Blasting off: rockets and spaceships.

The last image has me imagining the countdown from B.C. to A.D., to the moment when Jesus blasts off into the Heavens!   (The Ascension pictured above: circa A.D. 1410, Les Très Riches Heures du duc de Berry)

3 B.C., 2 B.C., 1 B.C.
We have lift-off . . .

Except the Ascension is estimated to have occurrred somewhere between A.D. 30 and 36.

VI. I was earlier imagining Jesus blasting off by jetpack, but it turns out there's already a Jetpack Jesus action figure!  Besides which, neither God nor the Son of God need technology to perform miracles, right? 

"It's Christ who climbs to the sky better than any pilot / He holds the world record for altitude" -- Guillaume Apollinaire, "Zone" (trans. Charlotte Mandell) from Alcools, 1913.

VII. Today's Rune: Harvest. 

1 comment:

Adorably Dead said...

Year...A...D...? It's the year of me, obviously. :p