In 2018, I decided that I had had enough of the Gregorian calendar. It's a phase that happens to everyone, I think. A entire poem to remember how many days in a month things are? Month names named after old, dead Roman gods or numbers that have no actual bearing on the actual month number? Get outta here.
More seriously, the seemingly arbitrary nature of the Gregorian calendar irked me. It felt like a holdover, bubbling up the same frustrations as when I go home and have to remember the relationships between miles, yards and feet again versus centimetres, metres, and kilometres. These frustrations were bubbling up at a time in my life when I was obsessed with optimisation and rationalisation of the processes that I used in my daily life. My time tracking tool, Færeld was a consequence of this - an attempt to track, rationalise and optimise the time I spent on creative endeavours.
At the time, I was also spending a lot of time around a group of developers, artists and designers named Merveilles who also had adjacent preoccupations. Inspired by systems like Devine's Arvelie calendar, I decided to try living my life for a little while by a different calendar, that embodied the values I was looking for.
I already knew of one candidate, of course. I had a calendar of it on my wall as a gift from a friend and so thought why not try and live by it, instead of it being a fun political-history novelty - the French Republican Calendar. I felt this would be fitting, since I sympathised with the republican impulse to Decimalise All Things, plus had a kind of romantic attraction to the naming system they deployed.
So, I created the Wending calendar, and python library that I could integrate into my personal tooling, modelled on the republican calendar but with all the names named in their Old English equivalents to fit with the naming style of my other projects. The structure of my new year looked like:
|Wæstm||Growth, produce, fruit||30|
|Wending||A turning round, revolution||5 (6 in leap years)|
The year begins with the Autumn month of Hærfest, on the 22nd of September. Each month has 30 days, except for the celebratory days at the end of the year, which can be 5 or 6 depending on whether it is a leap year. In the original republican calendar, the celebratory days were:
- Celebration of Virtue
- Celebration of Talent
- Celebration of Labour
- Celebration of Opinion
- Celebration of Honours
- Celebration of the Revolution
which was something I always thought was very charming and romantic, similarly with the names named after seasons, weather and agriculture. Though, of course, this system absolutely would not work in the southern hemisphere, and frankly in the middle of Berlin these seasonal-agricultural months had very little bearing on the actual seasons and whether. Except for Reg and Wind, perhaps.
Everything went great at first - all my tooling had the new calendar integrated through my Datarum library, my work machine's date display was in the new calendar, my monthly planning was more regular. Of course, it didn't free me from the Gregorian calendar at all. If anything, it made me far more aware of it, since the rest of the world stubbornly refused to adopt my calendar. Appointments, social events, birthdays, all were still in the old calendar. I had to get good at memorizing and converting Gregorian dates to Wending, and vice versa, which had the inconvenient effect of dredging the Gregorian calendar from something that is generally an invisible, if annoying, part of the fabric of everyday life to something that had to be constantly paid attention to and worked with. When I started missing doctor's appointments because of the calendar, I decided I should wind it down.
It's a pretty obvious conclusion in hindsight, but calendars are social tools. A calendar in a vacuum isn't very useful, it's real use is from it being a tool for temporal-social coordination. The effect was humbling and disconcerting. Trying to go-your-own-way with social coordination systems can be counter-productive, as the need to interop with the existing system you're trying to break from can end up heightening your awareness of it in the first place. Even though I can adopt a better calendar, from my perspective, it still doesn't really matter since things like calendars aren't decided by their raw utility, but by momentum and network effects.
Programming languages also occupy this kind of space for me. There are lots of languages that I think are better than others that I have to use in my day-to-day life. Outside of my own projects, however, languages are also tools of social coordination - using a tool no one really knows is hard. Adoption of tools and languages, especially in professional environments, is a bit of a vicious cycle. You don't want to adopt a language because its 'unproven' and the ecosystem is small, so you stick to what you know and whats widely adopted - so you don't adopt the language, which feeds into it's lack-of-adoption, and on and on. As I've worked with more teams and in more contexts, I'm more and more aware of the power momentum and network effects have in tooling choices.
Though sometimes, when I step outside in September, I think to myself "Ah, it's Hærfest".