Saturday Single No. 219

One of the most remarkable things I saw during my European travels so long ago was a gravestone in the cathedral at Salisbury, England. The man who was my host in Salisbury was an officer of some sort in the cathedral’s administration, so I received an amazingly thorough and well-informed tour through the massive and beautiful structure. And along with his informed commentary on the history and design of the great cathedral, Horace Rogers also showed me an oddity that I certainly would have missed had I been touring the cathedral on my own.

It was the grave of a child, and the stone showed the child to have been born on May 13 and to have died on February 9 in the same year. (Thanks for the webfind with the correct dates, blue50p.) He pointed the dates out to me and smiled as he saw my mental gears go into action and then stop with a nearly audible grinding. I finally just shook my head, baffled, and looked at him for an explanation.

That explanation was simple: Horace told me that from sometime in the Twelfth Century until 1752, while operating under the Julian calendar, each year in Britain began on March 25 and ended on March 24. So the child buried in that grave was nearly nine months old at the time of his or her death.

I mention this today because it points out how artificial a construct it is that each new year – like this morning’s 2011 – begins on January 1. Other cultures, of course, have long begun their years on other dates; it’s not uncommon for people to make note of the Chinese New Year, and there are others, as well.

But, artificial construct or not (and leaving aside the benefits of standards for record keeping), there is a personal value one can find in the establishment of beginnings and endings. We hear a lot of talk about New Year’s resolutions, though I don’t know if I’ve ever known anyone who actually made any with the intent of keeping them. I imagine there are folks who do, and a well-defined starting point for change likely has some value. So for those who want to, say, quit smoking, lose weight, exercise more, spend more time with loved ones or whatever beneficial change one might want, January 1 provides a nice benchmark.

Change – as I mentioned the other day – is hard, even on the level of our personal lives, like the changes listed above. And I imagine it’s just as hard on the level of a resolution that came into my mind the other day and then fluttered away until just now. That resolution? To be a better citizen.

That’s a vague goal, and this morning I have no firm idea what actions go with attaining that goal. Does it mean to write more letters to the editor? To become active once again in the local activities of a political party? To be more careful about recycling? To share my views in letters and emails to elected officials, from St. Cloud to Washington, D.C.? I imagine all of those and more might help attain what seems this morning to be a nebulous goal. I have some thinking ahead of me.

And it’s a good day to start doing that, among the parades and football games and the likelihood of going out to lunch with the Texas Gal. I imagine that, if I do things right, by the time the next January 1 rolls around, I’ll have been busy but I won’t be anywhere near done thinking about what actions would help me meet that goal. And if that’s the case, that’s fine.

To go along with these vague thoughts, I decided to share a tune I came across during the last couple of days when I was wandering through the musical decade just ended. It’s one that the Texas Gal and I actually heard Richie Havens perform when we saw him in St. Cloud a couple of years ago, and its title and lyrics, come to think of it, form a pretty good goal for a New Year’s Day.

So, from his 2008 album Nobody Left to Crown, here’s Richie Havens’ cover of the Who’s “Won’t Get Fooled Again,” and it’s today’s Saturday Single.

Dates and age of child corrected after first posting.


3 Responses to “Saturday Single No. 219”

  1. Alex says:

    Very cool cover!

    May you have a happy & healthy 2011, artificial construct or not.

  2. blue50p says:

    Hope you both have a great year

    I searched the Salisbury cathedral child and found the following

    H S E The body of Tho[mas]
    the sonn of Tho. Lambert gent.
    who was borne May ye 13 An[no] Do[mini] 1683
    & dyed Feb. 19 the same year.

    Page Link


  3. Paco Malo says:

    Ever since I first decoded Pete Townsend’s poetic “The 60s are over, man!” wake up call, I’ve been trying to avoid getting fooled again.

    Thanks to Richie for recording this marvelous cover of one of our anthems. I love how he both makes it his own and also tips his hat to Townsend with the arrangement.

    Great essay and Saturday single, Whiteray. Happy New Year!

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