Good grief – it's that time of the year again – June 21 is the day of the 2013 Summer Solstice – the longest day (and shortest night) of the year (at least, it is in the Northern Hemisphere).
I don’t know about you, but I'm in two minds about the Summer Solstice. On the one hand it makes me happy – I wish I could be with all the folks who are celebrating at Stonehenge today. On the other hand, the pessimist in me says "It's all downhill from here… the days will start getting shorter and the nights will start getting longer and winter will be upon us before we know it."
But wait, there's more, because I was pondering something on the way into work this morning. These days we take "knowing stuff" for granted. Starting in junior school and then in high school, we are inundated with facts about things like solstices and equinoxes and suchlike. As Ernest Renan (1823-1892) famously noted in Souvenirs D’enfance et de Jeunesse
(1887): “The simplest schoolboy is now familiar with facts for which Archimedes would have sacrificed his life.”
So, I was thinking about the folks who discovered things like the fact that the lengths of the days varied and worked out how long a year was and built things like Stonehenge. The main thing I was thinking was that I doubt that I would have discovered any of this on my own if I'd been brought up deep in the mists of time.
I'm sure that I would have noticed the larger picture, such as the fact that things grew warmer (summer) and colder (winter) over a large span of time. Without a watch or a clock, however, I'm not sure if I would have noticed that the days were gradually getting longer or shorter.
The bottom line is that the more I learn about this stuff, the more impressed I am with the way in which our ancestors (both primitive and modern) discovered how things work. What say you? Do you ever think about this sort of thing?
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