Numbering Days

Nearly one month on from the riots in England, the repercussions and recriminations are still going on… and there seems to be no clear consensus of what really caused them… Was it a function of social marginalisation, or recreational rioting? A sign of general moral decline or shopping with violence…
Riots can be sparked off by the slightest of things… I’ve even known riots in Belfast kick off because of a football result in Glasgow. But on this day back in 1752 there were apparently riots in many British cities because of a change in the calendar. Britain was one of the last countries to adopt the Gregorian calendar in place of the Julian one, and so by that stage Britain was 11 days out of sync with the actual position of the earth around the Sun, and consequently most of the rest of Europe… The solution… just lop 11 days out of the calendar… Hence in 1752 people leapt straight from the 2nd of September to the 14th… Producing the strange anomaly in Ireland that we remember the Battle of the Boyne on the 12th of July when it actually took place on the 1st of July…
But when all this happened many people thought they were being robbed of 11 days from their lives, leading to the rioting and, so I am told, cries of ‘Give us back our 11 days!’
We may look back on such thinking and say “how foolish”, (in the same way that we might be tempted to make glib generalisations about recent rioters) but what if you thought that someone had, arbitrarily, removed 11 days from your life?
The Psalmist in one place asks God to
“Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.”
(Psalms 90:12)
whilst elsewhere he says
“Show me, O LORD, my life's end and the number of my days; let me know how fleeting is my life. You have made my days a mere handbreadth; the span of my years is as nothing before you. Each man's life is but a breath.
(Psalms 39:4-5).

Nice cheery thought… but perhaps, just perhaps, if we realised how fleeting our days were on this earth in the light of eternity then we might make the most of each day that we have… Starting with this one… Have a really good day…

My "Thought for Today" on this morning's "Good Morning Ulster" on BBC Radio Ulster. You can check out the audible version on BBC iPlayer - it'll be at about 26 and 86 minutes in on the recording of the 2nd September Show.


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