Thursday, February 02, 2006

Furry Spirits

At a business lunch this week in Manhattan, the conversation turned to the upcoming Chinese New Year's celebrations. We were eating at a Chinese restaurant after all. It turns out that the new year actually began last Sunday, but the celebration to kick it off will be this Sunday.

Throughout the rest of the day, my brain turned to the question of solar cultures versus lunar cultures. The Chinese year is lunar. The Western European calendar that we use is solar. The American Indians used a lunar calendar, but their Aztec neighbors to the south use a solar one. The Greeks used (until very recently) the lunar calendar.

The cultural differences and patterns that might be found contrasting the lunar and solar calendars will have to wait for a future post.

The second thought was "The Year of the Dog". Assigning a metaphor to the year is interesting enough, but I love that it is an animal too. In Pennsylvania, tuxedoed men consulting a groundhog oracle to predict the weather. And here on Wall Street, one is bullish or bearish.

crystallizing the core traits of an animal is a facile and useful way to create a target metaphor for humans. Throughout the ages it has proven a more effective of encouraging behavioral patterns than any unattached and high-minded idealism. Better to attach to a readily recognizable animal spirit (which represents the primary traits of that animal). Most people can easily identify themselves with such a metaphor and use it to attempt to guide the behaviour, feelings, and responses in a certain direction.
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