• Uncovering the Secrets of Time and Number

    by  • 17 July 2020 • Extract, Philosophy of Human Life • 0 Comments

    Rhythm and number underpin our lives, from the days of the week and the times of the day to the number of letters in the alphabet. But do we ever stop to consider the deeper meaning behind these every day realities? 

    A new combined edition of Wolfgang Held’s books’ Rhythms of the Week and The Quality of Numbers 1 to 31, Uncovering the Secrets of Time and Number offers a fascinating exploration of this question. 

    This enlightening extract from the book explores the question, When Does the Week Begin?

    Weekend and week beginning

    It is clear, isn’t it, that the weekend begins on Friday evening and the new week starts again on Monday morning? And yet this division of the week into five working days from Monday to Friday and then two days of weekend leads to problems both of a physical and psychological nature.

    As the name suggests, we experience the weekend as a well-earned and refreshing end to the week; and the more we enjoy this break, whether by reading, going on excursions or in some other way, the more suddenly and startlingly the new week arrives.

    This is taxing, and at the same time a good example of the fact that relaxation is often nothing to do with the amount of leisure time we have, but with the organic way in which we structure this time. It is actually part of a healthier way of relating to time that we do not regard Sunday as the last but the first day of the week, as is self-evident in Christian tradition.

    Practical consequences

    This has practical consequences. If we feel that the new week is beginning on Sunday, we will start looking ahead and thinking about what is coming towards us, and what decisions and plans need to be made. Strengthened by our Sunday rest, we can contemplate the coming week and so allow some of this calm, this inner composure, to flow into the rest of the week. 

    In his famous statue of David, the sculptor Michelangelo created a work which wonderfully expresses this Sunday mood. Vasari, a biographer of the artist, no doubt sensed something of this when he wrote as follows about the sculpture:

    The diminutive David conquers the giant Goliath with a sling. Why did Michelangelo not express the greatness of this deed by showing in stone how David actually conquers the giant, or even by depicting him standing in triumph over the fallen giant?

    Vasari goes on to say that this is because the greatest moment of David’s courageous deed does not lie in the battle itself but in the instant preceding the fight, which Michelangelo sculpts: the moment when David, reflecting, takes his decision; and now all that remains is for his will to stream into his limbs. David’s clear, grave and confident gaze expresses more of the soul-mood of Sunday than any number of books.

    Hectic stress and calm

    Many initiatives, actions and activities would be accomplished in a less hectic, stressful and conflict-ridden way if we could form our resolves on a Sunday. Just as rest is needed after activity so that we relax and reflect, it is also needed beforehand, to collect ourselves for the decisions we are making. The conductor who closes his eyes for a moment before raising his baton; the high-jumper who composes himself before starting his run-up, focusing on his bodily feelings: these are instances of little ‘Sunday moments.’

    We usually connect rest with relaxation, yet Sunday rest can invoke inner expectancy and excitement about things we are contemplating. To cultivate Sunday, even perhaps to regard it as sacred, means allowing it to become a sun in our lives. Just as the sun inexhaustibly sends warmth and light to the earth, and thus calls forth life and development, so in Sunday, as the first day of the week, we can find a source of confidence and strength for initiatives that unfold on successive weekdays.

    Proverbs such as ‘start as you mean to go on’ or ‘in my end is my beginning’ do not suggest that events are predetermined, but rather that, like the seed of a plant, a beginning encapsulates the spirit of an undertaking, endowing it with its intrinsic character.

    In this sense, Sunday is present throughout the week.

    We hope you enjoyed this extract from Uncovering the Secrets of Time and Number. Find out more about it here.


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