Sunday, January 19, 2014

Year of the Monkey

The Chinese invented many wonderful things, such as dynamite, fortune cookies and Chinese food. They also invented astrology. In fact, the Chinese Lunar New Year is the longest chronological record in history.

Emperor Huang Ti introduced the first cycle of the zodiac in 2600 BC. It takes five minor cycles of 12 years each, or 60 years all together, to make one complete cycle.

The Chinese New Year always starts with the new moon on the first day of each year, somewhere between late January and the middle of February. Celebrations will last for 15 days, until the full moon arrives and the Lantern Festival takes place.

The Chinese calendar is based upon lunar and solar movements. Since the lunar cycle is about 29.5 days, an extra month is inserted seven times within every 19 years. This bit of mathematical magic avoids the need for an extra day every four years, with certain century exceptions. Thus, the Chinese New Year falls on a different date each year.

Each of the years within the 12-year minor cycle is named after an animal.

Presently, as I write this, it is January of 2014. I am putting together a book of random topics which I started in November of 2013 and will publish the book within the next few weeks.

Last year, 2013, was the Year of the Snake.

A snake is a loathsome creature that tries to blend in with the background and attacks without warning. After it has accomplished its task, it slithers back into hiding, mostly underground. 2013 turned out to be a bad year for snakes, particularly the Afghan cave-dwelling variety.

The present year, 2014, is the Year of the Horse.

According to Chinese astrology, children born this year will be hard working, independent, intelligent, friendly and a bit selfish. It sounds like another batch of lawyers, bankers and pickpockets are about to enter this world.

I was born during the Year of the Monkey.

According to the chart, I am certain to be very intelligent, well liked by everyone and highly successful in whatever field of endeavor I choose. Apparently, Chinese astrology isn’t an exact science.

In September of 2012, my high school class celebrated our 50th high school reunion. It’s hard to believe so much time has passed since I was hanging out in the pool hall, trying to figure out what to do with the rest of my life.

Most of my classmates were also born in the Year of the Monkey. My three best friends at the time (names withheld to prevent litigation) were also trying to figure out what they wanted to do with the rest of their lives.

One of them spent so much time in the pool hall, they considered charging him rent. Some fifty years later, he owns dozens of apartment complexes, over a thousand units in all, and passes time counting his money.

The second one took mostly shop courses in high school and spent all of his time chasing girls. Today he is a retired high school English teacher, still married to his first wife and their son went to the Naval Academy. He is presently working on his second novel, having had his first one published in 2011.

The third friend went on to obtain a PhD in psychology and has recently retired from a successful practice where he dispensed advice to people who were actually more screwed up than he is.

Other members of the class of 1962 in my circle of fringe miscreants have also achieved remarkable success. In no particular order, there is a painting contractor, a union leader, a mechanical engineer for an aerospace company, a computer programming contractor, a small business owner, a city councilman, a college professor and so on. No doctors or lawyers, but just about everything else.

As far as I can tell, those of us who were born during the Year of the Monkey are indeed successful. As soon as I figure out what I want to do for the rest of my life, perhaps I’ll be successful too.

Most of my former classmates are also very intelligent and successful. Whether or not they’re all well liked is another matter.

Then again, the guys I used to hang out with didn’t consider life to be a popularity contest.

But two out of three isn’t bad -- after all, Chinese astrology isn’t an exact science.

Quote for the Day -- “A man is a success if he gets up in the morning and gets to bed at night, and in between he does what he wants to do.”  Bob Dylan

Bret Burquest is the author of 10 books. He lives in the Ozark Mountains with a dog named Buddy Lee and where success is easily achieved with confidence and low expectations.

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