20201216 Morris-Cotterill: GOAT – and I can prove it.

Wednesday, 16 December, 2020 – 02:00

One of the most quoted sayings of Sun Tzu (“No plan survives the first contact with the enemy”) isn’t by Sun Tzu. But there is at least some evidence that an ear-biting, wife-beating boxer said “no plan survives the first punch in the face” (although even that is told in several different versions). So I feel entirely justified in coming up with my own variant on the original misquote.

No plan survives the first contact with the Year of the Rat (or 2020 – take your pick)

In Chinese mythology there are 12 animals of the zodiac. These are not, as in Western mythology, set monthly but annually, with reference to the moon. In a Chinese year, then, there are 12 of what we might consider “moonths” in a year whereas in Western, essentially pagan (and even earlier sun worshippers’) calendars, a year is calculated with reference to the sun. It’s highest and lowest dates above the horizon define the longest and shortest days and they are termed “Summer Solstice” and “Winter Solstice” respectively. They divide the year into two and “quarter days” subdivide those.

In Western calendars (which, of course, dominate the world), then, the world is not quite 365 days from one Winter Solstice to the next. For convenience, every four years, an additional day is added to the calendar so that the slippage is contained within that four year cycle. That’s why we have Leap Years.

In cultures that use what I’m calling “moonths” but I very much doubt it’s a real word, much less a word that anyone else would want to use) the use of 12 moon cycles to calculate a year is usual.

The moon v sun issue is interesting because it might suggest that the Moon people chose that to differentiate from the Sun people and so as a denial of paganism. But no. Christianity and Islam both came into being with a common objective: the concentration on one true God to the exclusion of multiple deities and the eradication of paganism. Just as Catholics lost that with the deification of Mary, Christ’s mother, so over time, Muslims went in the opposite direction and interpreted the term “false idols” as being any representation of e.g. Mohammed or other religious figures, denying the idea that there can be any physical representation as a tool to help create a channel to God. Yet Christianity uses sun years while Islam uses moon years.

Buddhism is a development of Hinduism – that has multiple Gods. Each has their own power, not dissimilar to the Roman, Greek and Norse religions of ancient times. But that doesn’t make them pagan.