Happy Arbitrary Day
“Time… is what keeps everything from happening at once.”
Ray Cummings, 1922
Last week I had a birthday, sort of. I can be somewhat cynical about made-up or pretend events and will refer to a variety of holidays such as Grandparent’s Day, Secretary’s Day, and dare I say it, Mother’s Day and Father’s Day as “Hallmark Holidays”, days that were promoted and marketed simply as a way to sell more greeting cards and gifts. For some of these days, presumably the ones that have really resonated with the American psyche, the promotions have worked like a charm. Mother’s Day is one of the biggest days of the year for buying flowers or going to a restaurant for a meal and Father’s Day moves a lot of ties. I have nothing against a company or organization promoting its products by these means, I simply feel that I don’t have to fall under their spell. By way of full disclosure, I have to say that I regularly buy my wife flowers on Mother’s Day, as I prefer sleeping in a bed. And in recognition of my feelings my wife gave me a birthday card this year that said “Happy Arbitrary Day”.
A birthday is supposed to commemorate the passing of one-year from the moment of your birth. A year though is a very arbitrary calculation, as are all of the ways by which we measure the passing of time. A year is defined as the amount of time for the planet to circle the sun and come roughly back to the position it was in…well a year ago. The passage of that time has been measured by various civilizations through the alignment of the sun, the positions of the stars or the phases of the moon to varying degrees of accuracy. But what is so magical about that roughly 365 day period that it needs to be commemorated as a significant milestone? Why are we so hung up about the passage of a year’s worth of time?
Well, if you were a farmer, as many of our ancestors were, the time of year was critical so you would know more precisely when to plant your crops or harvest. If you were a fisherman, you would know when the various species of fish were to be found in the waters. If you were a baseball fan you would know how long it was before spring training began. And once you get over 50, you would know how long it is until your next colonoscopy. You see there are all sorts of critical dates which need to be tracked.
But, there are a number of events that I don’t feel need to be commemorated as big events and birthdays happen to be one of them. For me it is not how long you have been on this planet that matters, but what you have done while you are here.
Recently, one of the events marked by the passage of time that has made the news was the statement made by some guy in California that the world was coming to an end. May 21st he said was it, that was all the time we had. So given that, you might as well send me your money, as you won’t need it much longer. Well, he had enough followers who believed him that he amassed some 70 million dollars. After the 21st came and went, he was asked if he would now return the money, you know like a money back guarantee. He did not deliver on his end-of-the-world prophesy so people should get their money back. He said no, that the world did not end so why should he give the money back? In my mind that is not really a tough question to answer, but I think he has it wrong. Usually in business, which is what this appears to be, if your product doesn’t work as advertised you give back the money people spent on it. But perhaps he has it wrong from a business perspective. Rather than making the end of the world a once in a lifetime event, perhaps he should promote it to be more like Mother’s Day that comes around every year. You know, the world could end just a little bit each year, maybe for a second or two and then go back to the way it was. That could even out his income stream somewhat.
But I started wondering, if he could raise 70 million by putting out bad news like the end of the world, how much could I raise by putting out some good news, like the world was not going to end? I should be able to raise at least twice that amount. Then of course came the obvious thoughts, what would I do with the 140 million dollars that suddenly fell into my lap? So I worked up my to do list and here are my top 10 things.
- I would treat myself to a full tank of gas. Maybe even a grade above 87% octane. Premium would be wasteful, but perhaps plus.
- I would buy 1 share of Berkshire Hathaway.
Then I would catch my breath and really dig in solving:
- World hunger,
- The lack of clean water for most of the world’s population,
- The environmental mess we have created for ourselves,
- All of these various wars,
- Slavery and the abuse of women,
- The global economy and resultant joblessness and homelessness,
- All other illnesses affecting mankind.
After that with the money I had left over I would throw myself one hell of a Happy Arbitrary Day party. For after all, it would have been a very good year.
© 2011 by Jeffrey M. Saltzman. All rights reserved.
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