I don’t know about you but I am growing weary of the calendar. It’s been a fun run. I think I have one post scheduled for the 31st– therefore I am–, and I thought it might be interesting to take a retrospective spin through this month’s
Crappy Old Book of the Month’s posts– maybe tomorrow? But I’m ready to move on to some fresh material come the cruelest month.
I can’t however, without sharing with you a bit from Chapter 15.
The preceding two chapters dealt with the Caesars, Julius (13) and Augustus (14). Of the two, Julius’ changes to the calendar were the more radical; Augustus’ were “finishing touches.”
Fast forward to the seventh century when “Christendom with its heritage of Greek, Latin, Hebrew, Egyptian and other cultures, was challenged by the upheaval of Islam.”
In their characters and circumstances, Julius Caesar and Mohammed were poles apart. The one was a man of the West– practical, orderly, opportunist. The other was a man of the East– fanatic in his fervor and filled to overflowing with the divine madness of mysticism. Yet when these two men came to handle the calendar, they were curiously alike. They knew that something should be done about it. They believed they knew what should be done. They did it.
“Both men were surrounded by chronological chaos.” Caesar had a Roman calendar seriously out of whack, plus the calendars of Babylon, Greece, Judea and Egypt.* Mohammed had the Roman calendar, the calendar of the Jews, and the Persian and Indian calendars.
There had to be a decision which admitted of no compromise. Caesar looked to the future and chose the sun. Mohammed looked on the past and adhered no less definitely to the moon.
Sun & Moon. Future and Past.
And that, My Dear Friends reading this in anno domini 2015, pretty much sums up Chapter 15.
Except for these choice passages (written three-quarters of a century ago, which is just a speck of time, I know):
The strength of the Islamic faith was it unanswerable finality. The Saracen entered … Alexandria and discovered what was left of the greatest library of the ancient world. “If,” he said, “these books contain what is in the Koran, they are unnecessary. If, on the other hand, they contain anything different, they are pernicious.”
[FOR THE RECORD: WE HAVE NEVER BURNED OR SHOT INTO OBLIVION A BOOK HERE AT THE FARM.]
It was useless for critics to suggest that the Moslem year was short of the solar year by 10½ or 11½ days. … The calendar was not merely inspired by an omnipotent Allah. It was dictated, and submission to its inconveniences was an act of worship.
(I’ve been told to follow Rule 2. As this is not an overtly political blog, just one that’s politically sublime, I will leave it to others— as I’ve done in the past— to make my point, which is that even in the crappy olden days of 1937, people got the fact that it’s probably not an everlastingly morally desirably good decision to base a whole entire religion on battered women’s syndrome.)
Mankind may be compelled at times to submit to finality. But if the obedience is to last, it must be on one condition. The final must also be the best. The fierce resistance aroused against Islam was due to a profound conclusion that, however good that faith might be, it was the enemy of the better.
There are signals that announce the succession of the seasons. A calendar that has no place for the equinoxes and the solstices is a chronological aberration.
Of special historical– historiographical– note we come to the end of Chapter 15 and two short paragraphs about the collapse of the Sultans in Turkey. Turkey, which turned toward the sun and adopted the Western Calendar about the time of Mustapha Kemal Pasha.