Saturday, June 6, 2020

Keep track

It is typical to hear retirees complain that they have difficulty keeping track of which day of the week it is, I imagine more people than usual feel that way while being quarantined or working from home.  There can be a similar problem with the day of the month.  I just get clear in my mind that today is the 5th of June when it changes to the 6th. Then, I have trouble with knowing whether it is the 6th or will be the 6th. I can get help from my computer, my watch, the daily newspaper (sometimes I add "1" to the date on the paper that has been lying around since yesterday), my iPad, my cellphone etc.  

I can only think of one book about the week and the weekend and the names of the days.  That is the book "Waiting for the Weekend" by Witold Rybczynski, something I read about ten or so years ago.

He is a retired professor of urban studies and architecture and has authored several books.  "Waiting for the Weekend" stresses the changes for people if their lives change from being agricultural to industrial.  Of course, "industrial" used to mean manufacturing efforts for many hands to use tools and teamwork to produce objects and goods.  I imagine it still does in most places but with the Covid-19, we can all imagine sending messages to machines from home or an office cubicle.  Most farming life focuses on daylight and starts at dawn or about then.  We have slowly changed from similarly early and long days to work days of 8 hours or less.

I find it surprising that it is the day of the week, that short little interval, that means so much and the day of the month is much less important.  As a Martian, I would guess the opposite: the day of the longer period would matter more.  It is true that in retirement, one has more choice and less steady commitment, the calendar notations of particular events more important but it is still true that the nature of my day is more affected by the day of the week than the date.

I assumed it was the Jewish emphasis on keeping the Sabbath that gave us the week but Google said it was the Babylonians that gave us seven days, based on their astronomers' ability to see seven heavenly bodies: Sun, Moon, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn.  I read that the Romans copied the seven days and Europe tended to follow them.

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