Now, A Leap in Time
02.26.2016, 3:16 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

4329118566_e81fe89ef5_osolar cyanotype, image courtesy Lawrence Hall of Science

Next week, a feral day is coming to a calendar near you.

Welcome to “intercalary day,” also known as a leap day.  It arrives this Monday, February 29th. We are feeling very lucky that the calendars are aligning, so to speak, as this special day happens to occur during our Living Deep Time Year 000001 project.

Given our ongoing research on all kinds of time, we’ve been giving extra attention to anything that helps frame and illustrate the creeping misalignment of standardized human time.  Our current 2000 year old calendar was instituted by Julius Caesar and refined by papal proclamation (by Pope Gregory XIII) in 1582 to include leap years.  This innovation of the Gregorian calendar reflects one human attempt to keep our lives running steadily and “on time.” American colonies didn’t adopt the calendar until 1752.

It actually takes approximately 365.242189 days  (or 365 days, 5 hours, 48 minutes, and 45 seconds) for Earth complete one orbit around the Sun.  That’s a number that doesn’t divide nicely into the 24 hour intervals that some humans have assigned to what we call a day.  If we didn’t add a leap day every four years, our calendar year would “lose” 6 hours annually.  After 100 years, we’d be “off” by around 24 days. Ironically, even with the complex system of leap years, the Gregorian calendar requires future humans to drop a day in about 3,000 years.

What we find most inspiring about February 29th, and leap days in general, is that they are “inserted” into the otherwise standard Gregorian calendar in an effort to materially re-connect our daily lives to their literal, spatial and temporal connections to the sun — and all the useful meanings that our planet’s location in space affords for human life and culture (seasons, months, myths, rituals, metaphors, etc.).


We invite you to take some leaps on Monday.  Instead of pondering the leaky nature of calculated time, re-sync with the driver of our evolutionary temporal rhythms — the sun. You’ll realize that February 29 isn’t really a “bonus day.” There’s really no more time than usual in existence this month (even though if you’re working on Monday, you’ll be getting an extra day of pay this year).  Consider astrophysicist Adam Frank’s point that “There are simply the Nows, nothing more, nothing less.” And take a moment to leap into the comments of zen master Dōgen (made 800 years earlier):

“Real existence is only this exact moment, all moments of existence-time are the whole of time, and all existent things and all existent phenomena are time. The whole of existence, the whole universe, exists in individual moments of time. Let us pause to reflect whether or not any of the whole of existence or any of the whole of the universe has leaked away from the present moment of time.” (from Chapter 11 of Dōgen’s Shōbōgenzō, “Uji”).

You can read more on leap years here. 

klein_leapartist Yves Klein leaps into the void, Le Saut dans le vide (Leap into the Void);
Photomontage by Shunk Kender of a performance by Klein at Rue Gentil-Bernard, Fontenay-aux-Roses, October 1960

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