Monday, September 29, 2008


So, it's Rosh Hashanah time again, so best wishes to all for a happy and healthy New Year on this, the birthday of the world, the original Earth Day!

Five thousand, seven hundred, and sixty-nine years, that is a very, very long time indeed. Tradition has it that the calendar goes back to the six days of creation, which is why Rosh Hashanah is the birthday of the world, and really the whole damn universe! And why shouldn't there be a birthday for the whole kit and kaboodle? Why not celebrate the anniversary of the big bang?!?! Although, admittedly, that sounds more like the moment of conception, rather than birth. But who wants to get into a debate about when life begins? We can at least all agree to abort that topic.

Historically speaking, though, 5,769 years ago, the systems of notation used to keep accounts, presumably including an accounting of time, were evolving and being developed into the first true form of writing. This was happening over in Mesopotamia, where our troops are today (may God watch over them and keep them safe, along with all others), on the part of the Sumerians, in places like the city-state of Ur. You know Ur, as in Ur-text, and as in the birthplace of Abraham, née Abram, ancestor of the Jews/Hebrews/Israelites, as well as the Arabs.

So, 5769 does represent the anniversary of the beginning of an accounting of time, the birth of a chronology that in turn gave rise to the first full sense of history, a written narrative of events occurring in linear order over time, as can be found in the Torah, the first five books of the Bible. While certainly not a factually accurate accounting, this represents a marked departure from the mythic traditions of other peoples in the ancient world, most of whom had narrative without chronology, or in the case of the few cultures to utilize writing systems such as the Sumerians and Egyptians, had chronology that was not integrated with narrative. It is only with the advent of the semitic alphabet that sufficient carrying capacity in written form was achieved to allow for the creation, transmission, and preservation of the chronological narrative we call history.

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