Happy new year!
As most of the people of the world mark 9/11 with commemorations of the attacks on the world trade centre and the Pentagon there are different celebrations under way in the Coptic Christian world.
Egypt and Ethiopia have a unique calendar system which is a hangover from ancient Egyptian religions. While most of Western Europe found that a four season calendar made sense of the agricultural year a different dynamic held sway along the Nile.
Calendars prosper by their usefulness. The three season ancient Egyptian calendar was very useful to the farmers of the Nile valley. The key driver of the agricultural season from Ethiopia to Alexandria was the highland rains which caused the Nile inundation.
The Julian calendar was introduced as the Roman standard by Emperor Augustus in 25 BC. A modified version of the Julian Calendar was introduced in Egypt. The first day of the New Year in the Ancient Egyptian calendar, the Feast of the Two Rivers, lands in our calendar on the 11th of September.
In 284 AD Diocletian became Emperor of Rome. He immediately launched the most savage pogrom against Christians in History. He tried very hard to wipe out the Christian religion. His pogrom was especially harsh in Alexandria and the Egyptian World. The Coptic Christian calendar takes 284 AD as its Year 1, Year of the Martyrs. The Ethiopian church has followed the Coptic lead and also celebrates today as New Year.
On Dec 23rd 1970 the North Tower of the World Trade Center (No.1 WTC) topped out at the height that made it the tallest building in the world. The record stood only until 1973 when it was surpassed by the Sears Tower in Chicago As we know now the building itself was fated to fall in 2001.
Entropy is inevitable. What we build will fall. Should this deter us from building?
Man has built something stronger than steel, more durable than concrete and more revealing than glass. The sum of our knowledge is man’s great tower. We have the ability to encode knowledge, store it in a retrievable format, access it when we need it and communicate it to those who can use it. This is what sets man apart from animals. This is why modern man replaced Neanderthals.
We often represent the concept of “education” with a candle, a light, a beacon shining in the darkness of ignorance. The candle, guttering in every gust of wind, fragile, easily lost, something to be nurtured and protected.
Yes, we should build. Yes, the buildings will fall. We must ensure that the knowledge endures.
Sonnet LXIV; by William Shakespeare
When I have seen by Time’s fell hand defaced
The rich proud cost of outworn buried age;
When sometime lofty towers I see down-razed,
And brass eternal slave to mortal rage;
When I have seen the hungry ocean gain
Advantage on the kingdom of the shore,
And the firm soil win of the watery main,
Increasing store with loss, and loss with store;
When I have seen such interchange of state,
Or state itself confounded to decay;
Ruin hath taught me thus to ruminate
That Time will come and take my love away.
This thought is as a death which cannot choose
But weep to have that which it fears to lose.