Sunday, December 02, 2012

Tis the Future Season

It's the "Holiday Season."  We just got done with Thanksgiving.  We have Christmas coming up, as well as Hanukah and relative newcomer on the holiday scene, Kwanzaa.  New Years is after that.  We have holidays to do some very important things.
Drink lots of alcohol. Buy lots of stuff (besides alcohol).  Eat lots of food, hopefully with the alcohol we're drinking.  
Of course I'm being facetious.  Holidays are not just to do those things.  That is what weekends are form, right?  Holidays are meant to remember things.  Important people.  Important events.  Things that we collective believe are important for us to recall and reflect on.  Things we SHOULD keep with us throughout the year, but which we need to be reminded about.  Like the list of resolutions we'll be writing in about a month, and failing at a few weeks latter, they are meant to give us a break to remember someone or something that points to how we want to be.  
For example, how does drinking copious quantities of green beer help us to remember the patron saint of Ireland's mythical achievement of driving the snakes from that island?  Drinking copious amounts of beer of any color doesn't help a person remember anything.  
I think some holidays haven't aged well, though.  Take Armistice Day.  If you don't know that holiday, it's the old name for Memorial Day.  It was originally intended to honor and remember the men that died fighting in "The Great War," which was the original name for World War One, before everyone discovered there were more "great wars" to come.  Over time, though, the people that lived through the time of the Great War passed away.  So they changed the holiday's name and rebooted it to remember all the soldiers that died fighting for this country.  
I think Memorial Day has problems as a holiday.  During times of peace, it's an excuse for a long weekend, that trifecta of drinking, eating and buying.  That's not good.  Recently, we've had reason to remember soldiers that have died.  That's not good, either.  
Thanksgiving has fared better of time.  It was established to remember the "First Thanksgiving" of the pilgrims that symbolize the founding of this country.  Now it has extended the sense of thanksgiving to anything we have for which we can be grateful.  And though it has a semi-religious quality to it, it is very non-denominational.  If you live in this country and have something you're grateful for, then celebrate!  Even an atheist living on the street can thank random chance that he still draws breath.  For as long as we're alive, we have a chance for something better. 
Christmas hasn't fared so well.  I don't see how pushing and shoving your way through crowded department stores, cursing those around you, buying presents mostly out of guilt, does much to recall Baby Jesus' Birthday.  Maybe some theologian can explain it to me.  
And what about holidays of the future?  
9/11 will become our next national holiday, I think.  The process has already started.  Every year we mark the day with speeches and solemn events.  There are moments of silence marking when the planes hit each of the towers and crashed into a Pennsylvania field.  Friends and relatives intone the names of the victims and heros they lost.  We've been doing this for a decade now.  
How will it evolve, though?  Will it go the way of Armistice Day?  Once all the people who knew the people that died have passed away, what will we do then?  And what will we call it?  Remembrance Day?  No.  It sounds too much like Memorial Day and people might confuse it.  Victims Day?  Another bad name.  Defiance Day?  It was this defiance that lead us into two long and costly wars, one of which was unnecessary in my opinion.  
How about Unity Day?  To remind us of the way we came together as a nation in the days after the tragedy.  It was the only time I thought George W. Bush did a good job as president, in his role of "mourner in chief."  The candlelight vigils in neighborhoods and parks all over the place.  People putting American flags on their cars, trucks and motorcycles, having them whip about as they drove down the freeway until they were in tatters.  A day remembering that time would do us good, I think.  From the rhetoric of the last election, I'm afraid most of us have forgotten to think of this a single nation.  
Here's one to think about: First Contact Day - The day we memorialize the first time we met with intelligences from another planet.  The claims of various "ufo-ologists" notwithstanding, I don't think this has happened yet.  But it will be something worth remembering.  It will also have an inherent ability to evolve with time as Thanksgiving has.  At first, it will be a chance to remember who we were.  Sort of like looking at our pictures of elementary school.  Maybe even a chance to mourn that loss of innocence.  As time goes on, it will be a chance to reflect on what we've become, how we've changed or evolved.  Hopefully how we overcame the trauma and destruction that history teaches us happens when a culture with a superior civilization encounters another, and move on to integrate what is inherently human with whatever truths these beings from our future will bring us.  
In my own writing, I've already given this day a date.  "Four-One-Two-Three."  April 1, 2023.  Because of the nature of the aliens in my universe, known as the Tau, and the manner in which they abruptly left humanity, taking over a hundred thousand people with them ("The Chosen"), this day has a quasi-religious significance in my universe.  I think a similar significance will be there when it happens for real. 
There are some things we don't memorialize that I think we should.   
Why don't we have a holiday celebrating any scientist?  How about making March 14th "Albert Einstein Day."  Considering we live in a world that has marvels bordering on the science fictional, I think we should remember the men and women that brought us these discoveries.  And Albert Einstein is far and away the most famous scientist there is.  Conservatives love him for coming up with the theory that gave us the atomic bomb.  Liberals love him for his subsequent opposition to its use.  Politically, it should be a slam dunk.  His name has become synonymous with being smart, or as an epithet to use when someone does something stupid ("That was brilliant, Einstein!").  
If Einstein doesn't work, then how about Thomas Edison Day, February 11th.  Another smart guy who invented a bunch of cool stuff.  Though, personally, if I wanted to choose someone whose work impacted the modern world, I might go with Nikolai Tesla Day (July 10th).  While Edison invented the incandescent lightbulb, Tesla invented the fluorescent bulb, which has lit our offices for years and which is taking over in the homes because of its energy efficiency.  Edison invented direct current power generation, but Tesla invented alternating current power generation, which is how all electrical power is generated today (we can still give a nod to Edison, though, since batteries provide DC current, which keeps our cell phones and laptops working when they're unplugged).  Edison may have invented the phonograph, it was Tesla's work in radio waves, which Marconi, who got credit, may have "borrowed," that leads to our downloadable music experience of today.  
I think Tesla might be a hard sell, though.  Most Americans don't know who he is to begin with, and his name is too "foreigny" for most of us to want to celebrate.  
If we can't pick a scientist, how about science itself.  We'll have "Discovery Day," a moving holiday, celebrated on a different day each year.  One year it could be on September 28th (the discovery of penicillin), the next year on April 1st (the day the discovery of the Double-Helix structure of DNA was first published).  
Or how about a holiday for an important scientific concept.  March 14th is already celebrated informally as "Pi Day," and not for something made with apples or cherries, or for a recent hit movie.  It is the mathematical constant that gives the value of the ratio between a circle's circumference to its diameter, 3.14159, etcetera, etcetera, forever and ever (March 14th?  3/14?  3.14...  Get it?).  
I think science should have its day in the sun.  Religion has a lot of holidays already.  That's the only thing besides political or historical events and people that gets celebrated.  I recall a bumper sticker I saw recently: 
"Science flies you to the Moon.  Religion flies you into buildings."  
While I admit its an gross overstatement, I think saying that science has contributed positively to our lives is an equally gross understatement.  
I have a proposal to make.  To bring holidays back to their intended purpose, to contemplate moments and people that are important to us collectively, let's do two things:  
First, let's put an expiration date on every holiday.  If it celebrates an event or person's birthday, let's stop celebrating it after the last person living that remembers that person or event passes away.  At that point we have to morph it.  Just as Thanksgiving has evolved, and Armistice Day and its reason for being turned into Memorial Day, we will have to find something that is still with us about that person or event.  We have to show the reason we have to keep it our collective memory, why it needs to be treasured and set aside. 
Second, let's pick the holidays we plan to celebrate each year.  Switch them around.  Right now, poor August is the only month that doesn't have a holiday in it.  Is this because nothing of any importance has ever happened in August?  Not at all!  Pakistan  and India got their independence in August (the 14th and 15th respectively), and about half of all the famous battles fought in Ireland happened in that month (is there a traditional time for Irish Whiskey to be uncorked after aging?  I bet there's a connection).  Since it's when most kids go back to school, we can celebrate "Education Day."  Pick a date and remember what our ability to read and write and do numbers has done for us.  
Having holidays expire and picking new ones would give us a fresh new set of days to gather and remember what is important to us, as individuals and as a nation.  
Or, we'll figure out how to have a barbeque and get drunk on some obscure in the middle of the week.  Which is probably what will end up happening anyway.  


Blogger slcard said...

Hurray for holidays! I'm all for them, old and new. But, like all things, I like to do them my own way. I think I'll skip the BBQ and drunkenness, and go for keeping my PJs on all day and reading a book instead.

December 3, 2012 at 12:47 PM  
Blogger Erick Melton said...

That would be allowable holiday behavior.

December 3, 2012 at 9:48 PM  

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