blinking snake


If I were to say it was time for the world to turn over a new leaf, and you were to accuse me of peddling pre-owned metaphors, I’d have to plead guilty; It’s right there in the “Dictionary of Cliches,” and editor Eric Partridge advises that the phrase dates from 1597. After 400 years, people still reach for this expression when they want to talk about starting fresh with a better course of action.

What made me think of a newly turned leaf was the arrival of our desk calendars—those 12-sheet planner pads where the days of your life are two-inch squares, inside which you log deadlines, birthdays, appointments and reminders. A calendar is a necessary tool. But perhaps we need a new chapter (the 16th-century expression referred to pages in a book) as far as tool design is concerned.

Every Jan.1, the world turns to one of 14 versions of a calendar created by Pope Gregory about the same time the “new leaf” image first appeared. Fourteen versions? That’s what you get with a 365-day year that adds an extra day every fourth (leap) year. You need fourteen different masters (see the phone book’s first page of alphabetized listings). In an age that embraces technology but still depends on calendars, such a system is almost laughably primitive.

There is a better idea, launched in 1929, called the World Calendar. It uses the same day-and-date plan for every year, for all time. It’s easy to understand, it saves money, and it even has a touch of art. When such appealing ingredients can be combined to produce a revolutionary change, people are often suspicious. It’s hard to sell, but it’s fascinating.

The World Calendar has four equal quarters containing 13 complete weeks - 91 days, no more and no less - and always starts on a Monday (sic). Each month has 26 weekdays plus Sundays (February has 30 days; three-month quarters have one 31-day month and two at 30). New Year’s always falls on a Sunday, Christmas always falls on a Monday. Your birthday, wedding anniversary and paydays behave the same predictable way.

The trick is that four 91-day quarters give 364 days, not 365. The number 364 is divisable by two and four, while Pope Gregory’s 365 is not. And herein lies the art of the World Calendar; The very last day, number 365, formerly Dec. 31, is designated Worlds Day.

It’s not a Monday or a Sunday or any of those five others; it has no number, either. It’s a non-political, non-religious world holiday. World Calendar advocates call it a stabilizing day. It favors no individual, no religion, no nation, yet it belongs to all those factions. A holiday dedicated to stability; Is this a leaf worth turning over? I certainly hope so.

The World Calendar Association is headquartered in Bend. Retired accountant Norm Lindhjem, whose research led him to WCA founder Elizabeth (sic) Acheles and her successors, has been the main ball carrier since 1991.

Last year, The Associated Press picked up a World Calendar story from The Bulletin; the idea has since found its way to the Internet, where an East Carolina University teacher (sic) named Rick McCarty maintains a calendar reform page. He and Lindhjem (not yet on the Internet) have exchanged letters and phone calls.

Neither man is optimistic about the world adopting the simpler calendar, but both spread the word cheerfully anyway.

“The problem, first of all, is resistance to change,” says McCarty. “Politicians aren’t going to be interested in anything that’s going to cause them heat. And ordinary people often feel ’If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.’

“The organized resistance is basically a religious thing: Some don’t like the idea of waiting eight days between sabbaths. There are strong ties to the seven-day cycle, especially among Jews and Seventh-day Adventists. It’s going to be tough to pry them off that.”

McCarty, wouldn’t you know, teaches philosopy. One of his classes focuses on global ethics—alternate views of what’s right and what’s wrong.

“I wanted a set of rules that people use to coordinate their behavior, and hit upon the conventional calendar as an example that my students would understand,” McCarty says. “You can see clearly that the World Calendar is better. It’s enlightening to think that there could be other ways of keeping time.”

Lindhjem figures that the next easy-step transition from the Gregorian calendar to the World model is when we move from 2005 to 2006. For more information, check McCarty’s Web site:

A lost cause? Many a new leaf has looked that way at first.

—Andy Whipple. Bend (Oregon) Bulletin, Wednesday, 20 November 1996

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