Leap Year of Faith
Something happened this week that forced all the people at the calendar making companies to work a little overtime. The extra day at the end of February justified the four years of extensive, repetitive research that seems to suggest that our planet takes a little longer than a year to orbit our closest star, we have nicknamed the sun. Adding an extra day to a standard 365 day 12 file template must be cumbersome. This is why calendars are so expensive this year.
The idea that it takes more than a year for this annual trip confirms that whoever did the math for the arc of our solar rotation, forgot to use the proper formula when they handed in the final results of their science project to their intergalactic teacher.
My concern for the sloppiness of the work here, is how easily we now accept errors in calculation to justify a planet that will not comply with one simple expectation. I am sure this all began when the mother and father of our planets, tried to impose strict parental rules to ensure their little ones did not misbehave.
Dad: Earth, see that big yellow ball of fire we call the sun, son, (my assumption here is celestial parents like to make predictable puns to keep the conversation light). Your mother and I have discussed this and we would like you to rotate around that star once a year. Not about once a year, but exactly once a year.
Earth: Yes mom and dad.
Mom: And tonight, after your tap dancing lessons, we expect you back at home at eight o’clock, not around eight o’clock but at precisely eight o’clock. Any questions darling?
Earth: No mom and dad.
Dad: Good, little Earthy, now don’t let the sun job get you down and if you need help you can count on me. (Elton John and Bernie Taupin would dramatically improve that phrase many years later)
Clearly this type of overprotective co-parenting never ends well. I mean come on, is it too much to ask our home planet to take a year to complete one simple task. Where is the efficiency in a four-year adjustment that demands autocorrect to compensate for an annual careless mistake? Except for a compliment from your spouse, what else takes four years to occur?
As I obsess about this Leap Year predicament, I start wondering about how this all began. Did some well dressed elder, wearing the newest toga its fashion consultants would allow, in some nomadic tribe centuries ago, wake up one early March 1st morning and just say, “Man it still feels like it is February.”
If the earth can’t meet a simple deadline, what chance do we have to get our tax returns in on time?
The inconvenience of our orbital deficiency has consequences far beyond an occasional calendar edit. Can you imagine the pain you endure if you were born on February 29th? While your brothers and sisters got birthday parties every year, you would have to wait more than a thousand days just to get your next Etch-a-Sketch. The upside is you might have mastered diagonals by that next birthday.
Here is some interesting sports trivia to honour this day. For the ladies who feel that the word “interesting” and “sports trivia” should never appear in the same sentence, I apologize. Henri Richard, the brother of the more famous NHL legend, Maurice ‘Rocket’ Richard, was born on February 29th1936. He holds the record for appearing the most times as a player on the Stanley Cup with 11 championships. Not bad for a twenty-year old, more than one cup every other birthday. Still fans keep insisting Gretzky is the greatest of all time.
In a different time when drunk driving was mandatory, my dad’s adult male friends used February as their month of abstinence. All would agree to not have a single alcoholic drink for the entire month. Now even during leap years, February still remained the shortest month of the year so a few actually succeeded in this annual sobriety challenge. To choose the shortest month of the year to demonstrate temperance is quite clever. Today this would be celebrated during performance reviews as strategic thinking.
People who have taken leadership courses and suddenly feel it is their duty to motivate others, tend to ask what are you going to do with your gift of an extra day this year? We call these people idiots. We can barely manage our lives during a 365-day year, so trust me, adding an extra day isn’t going to improve your odds of getting your laundry done. February 29th is not the special gift some proclaim it is.
As I continue to reflect on this Leap Year fiasco, I researched the word “leap” to see if there was any relevance to this odd description for our quadrennial event. It seems the best synonym for leap is spring, and since this event happens in the winter I ceased my research immediately. Well that is a bit of a lie, because I discovered the word for every five years is quinquennial. Now that is a word I wished I could use more often. Every quinquennial my nieghbours use electric clippers to trim their hedges.
The last thing I want to say about Leap years is merely a formal complaint to the IOC. There was a time when both the summer Olympics and the winter Olympics occurred in the same year. This was always the only way I could remember that we were in a leap year. Then suddenly somebody decided that this was not profitable enough, or maybe the marathon was just taking too long to run. Regardless of the reason, without consulting the baby boomers, the IOC changed the natural rhythm of the games that now makes it impossible for me to remember when Leap years occur. Now you might say that one only has to remember that a Leap year occurs during the summer Olympics, but that kind of thinking would force me to add new ideas to my well populated brain, and I stopped doing that years ago.
Every Leap year forces me to take a leap of faith, hoping to somehow justify the imperfection of our irregular orbit. As I get older, I have begrudgingly learned to accept that I have almost no control of the earth’s orbital plan. Time has helped with this painful realization and as the decades pass, I seem to be more open to the idea that I have seen more than I will ever understand. To put this in more academic terms, I have been a witness to far more quinquennials than I care to admit.
“If the world was perfect, it wouldn’t be.” Yogi Berra
Cue the blong With apologies to The Who, I kind of stole your title of a classic. I changed “again” to “anymore” hoping your lawyers are working on other things.