“HELIOCOMPASS”-Visualizing the invisible with the Earth Calendar-
Have you ever heard of the Earth Calendar-HELIOCOMPASS?
It’s a calendar that helps us gain a somatic understanding of our location in relation to the solar system as a whole.
Rather than a piece of paper inscribed with numbers, this calendar shows the position of the planets.
A revolutionary new tool that offers insight into how we, as inhabitants of planet Earth, should live within the limitless expanse of the cosmos, the Earth Calendar is drawing increasing attention from chefs, artists, and other creative professionals.
We talked with inventor Kaichi Sugiyama about the calendar.
Calendars as ladders to cosmic harmony
When we hear the term “calendar,” we usually think of dates.
But those numbers don’t contain any meaning in and of themselves.
They function like the labels on drawers, filled with deeper meaning.
As shared social concepts, they let us respond quickly to questions like “how does July 5 work for you?”
Right away, we locate the right “drawer” for that date and pull it open.
How many times do you check the clock each day?
Probably many, many times. Within a family or company, even a society as a whole, if everyone knows that they usually eat lunch at 12 noon, a kind of promise develops: “Okay, the clock struck 12. Now it’s time for lunch!”
From the point when dates and times were first established, everyone began to use them to make this sort of promise.
They became our method of timekeeping – a self-evident set of rules that bleeds into our daily lives.
Japan first adopted something similar to what we’d now call a calendar in the seventh century, during the reign of Prince Shotoku.
The calendar was one part of the Ritsuryōsei-do, an early political system including both criminal and administrative codes.
In earlier times, people’s lives were attuned to nature, so they had a sense of time even without looking at clocks or calendars.
If we open the windows wide and take in the smell, atmosphere, and light of day,
we don’t need anyone to tell us “when” today is.
We don’t need calendars. Just by existing on planet Earth, we’re already a part of the system.
For instance, even though each individual human is insignificant,
if we all drop a seed onto the ground at the same instant, the Earth takes care of the rest, so that these many small actions develop into an enormous harvest.
When actions like that coalesced into societal systems, the need arose for some sort of tool to tie them together on a larger scale.
Our lives and society as a whole began to move in the rhythm of days and months, of Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday Sunday.
So we have these numbers on calendars, but we have to be very careful not to be misled by them. Numbers tend to put people to sleep. For instance if you start counting sheep, “one sheep, two sheep,” after a while you get to the point where you think,
“What’s the point?” Calendars are not products of nature. They don’t grow like wildflowers in fields. They are consciously planned, premeditated creations that arose from a human desire to learn from and connect with the harmonious workings of the heavens.
“Where”and “when” are one and the same
The Western or Gregorian calendar that we use today functions in a 28-year cycle. If you put a calendar from 28 years ago on the wall of an office, most likely nobody would notice the difference. Considering that everyone uses them, yet almost no one understands what they really are, calendars just might be the biggest tromp l’oeil of the century.
Returning to my earlier discussion of the cosmos, I’d like to take a look at the Japanese word for it, “uchū.” It’s made up of two characters. The first, “u”, refers to spatial concepts such as the four directions or up and down. The second, “chū”, refers to the progression of time. Layered together in the word “uchū”, they come together to express the concept of a continuum encompassing both space and time.
We usually think of time and space as two separate things, but they are actually one and the same. Because we can’t see time, we understand it as space, and that functions as a hint when we look at a calendar. It follows that asking “when” is the same thing as asking “where.” Our ability to answer the question “where” means that we are able to clearly understand our position at a given moment.
Incidentally, the roots of the Japanese word for “body” are both the words for “empty” and “shell” (as in an eggshell), signifying a container or receptacle. As the stars and the Earth are both spherical, the part of our body that is spherical and symbolizes this nature is our head. At the exact center of each of our heads, there is a tiny point called our biological clock, which functions like a receiver picking up and aligning us with the rhythm of the cosmos. Every living creature is born with a biological clock. No matter where on Earth we are, we all unconsciously pick up the same time message.
We are able to take that awareness of time and divide it into concepts like past, present, and future. This is a very special ability that only humans have.
When we think of our place, we talk of missing the forest for the trees, and we can visualize a state where we are existing in a certain place at a certain time by taking a bird’s eye view of ourselves.
Time is a cycle, with one day representing one spin of the Earth on its axis. One month represents the time the moon takes to orbit the Earth, and one year represents the time the Earth takes to orbit the sun. Ultimately, the basic units of the calendar – year, month, and day – tell us the location and directionality of this trinity of spheres, the sun, moon, and Earth.
We unconsciously attune our daily lives to the dates printed within the calendar’s grid. The important question is how far we can look beyond that grid.
To put it differently, imagine that your life will last about 30,000 days, and someone comes along and tells you, “Today is day number 20,000.” If your life is a long film made up of 30,000 scenes, and you know you are in the 20,000th, it’s not like you suddenly have a sense of what you need to do at that moment.
We can call that sense “riding the wave” of life. The expression may sound a little shallow, but when you’re riding that wave, things go right, and when you’re not, they don’t. I think that feeling of “riding high” connects to a sense of being alive in the here and now.
The first step towards achieving that state is to have an understanding of the big picture.
Calendars are extremely complex systems created by scholars. They are so complex you could spend a whole lifetime studying them without gaining a complete understanding. Skipping over the question of “where” for a moment, I’d like to point out, however, that we actually have all the knowledge we need already. We just need a way to access it.
So how do we do that? Let’s start by taking a bird’s eye view of the solar system. I’m sure we all can conjure an image of the solar system spinning around.
What it means to live within the solar system
Four hundred years ago, in the age of Kepler and Galileo, people didn’t even believe that the Earth was round. Today, Google Earth, Tangible Earth and countless other tools let us spin the Earth in the palm of our hand like a ball. Everyone knows about the solar system and its movements. But the Earth and the other planets are not simply moving like vehicles on a road. We tend to imagine the planets as independent parts, but in reality they work together as a single unit creating the symphony of time.If you take apart a clock, you’ll find many layers of gears inside. Although time and space are not shaped like gears, they interlock in set ratios. Everyone knows that the solar system is revolving, but I don’t think everyone realizes that it is actually an enormous natural clock.
The term “solar system” contains within it the word “system.” We live within this system. The concept might be easier to grasp if we simply say that the solar system and we, as individuals, are exactly the same thing. Everything that exists within the solar system is what I can “solar-systematic.” What I mean by that is we are born with the same system inside of us. The key point is that humans and the Earth are one and the same – or if you prefer, we are integrated. Following this concept to its conclusion, I think we can also say that humans and the sun are one and the same.
Scientifically speaking sunshine is made up of electromagnetic waves—electric and magnetic forces that join together and travel through space like waves. The sun’s waves reverberate within a certain area called the heliosphere, which extends about twice as far as Pluto. Beyond that is galactic space.
The term “helio” originates in the name of the ancient Greek sun god, Helios, from which we also get the name of the element produced by solar fusion, helium.
A sphere, of course, is a round object. So “heliosphere” refers to the spherical area within reach of the sun’s electromagnetic waves. There is a division between places that feel the sun’s influence and those that don’t.
Visualizing the invisible with the Earth Calendar
The Earth Calendar-HELICOMPASS that I developed is a new map of time that incorporates a consciousness of the solar system. It allows us to take a bird’s eye view of where we are and where the Earth is. I created it as a compass to point the way towards the sensibility that we as Earthlings will need to live within the cosmos in a new era. This calendar doesn’t simply tell us where we are – it allows us to visualize the fact that we are one with the sun.
Your own life, your own time. At those moments when we ask ourselves, “Who am I?” we are most likely to find the truth if we take an objective, bird’s-eye perspective.
To observe, and to perceive. The most important function of a calendar is to allow us to understand what our eyes can’t see. To observe ourselves from the outside, from the eyes of another person. In fact, that outsider’s perspective already exists within the sphere of our own head. That mechanism is linked to the solar system. The logic of the solar system is woven throughout the macro and micro levels. If we were to cut a cross-section out of the universe, we would see it at work in each and every layer. It’s as if some sort of law were spinning on its own axis, around which everything else revolved. Living that law is a question of how much we tie ourselves to it, how much of a role we give to space-time and use it in the social contracts we make with other people.
And then there is the question of how to manage the large community that we call society.
This is the way I think about things.
Kenji Miyazawa and the power of poetry
I have been deeply influenced by Kenji Miyazawa. He asserted that the meaning of a strong, good life is a life in which we remain conscious of the galaxy and adjust our lives to it.
This is not a question simply of astronomy or Earth sciences.
To communicate his message, Miyazawa used myths and stories, which is fantasy and poetic approach.
I suspect that the telescope lenses through which astronomers gaze at the distant stars also reveal the depths of their own hearts.
A century has passed since Miyazawa lived, and today we are able to spread out a time-space map of the solar system on the living room table.
Ordinary housewives know all about the Milky Way.
This small world of ours is no longer the place to talk merely in terms of “you” or “me.”
From our own living rooms, we are able to perceive a much broader expanse than ever before.
Our understanding of time and space is changing on the most fundamental level.
I believe we are living at a very special time within the long history of humankind.
Only that which is beautiful will remain
What is beauty? That’s a hard question to answer in a single sentence. But think about the cosmos, which is a system on a much larger scale than our societal systems. Like the Earth and the solar system, it is revolving – so the pattern for a closed-loop, cyclical society already exists on a grand scale. Every living creature conforms to it.In the time scale of the natural world, those creatures that do not conform to the cosmic system are weeded out. The solar system is extremely beautiful from both a spatial and temporal perspective. When you look at Earth’s ecosystems within that larger system, even a single flower is extremely beautiful.
The question of “what is beautiful” or “what is natural” becomes a question of what can exist within the circle of life and what cannot. In the end, only that which is beautiful will remain. At that point, it won’t matter what a thing is called or who made it. That which is meant to remain will remain.
The objects spinning within this enormous whirlpool of the solar system trace the shape of a spiral. In mathematical terms, spirals conform to what is called the “golden ratio.” If you dig down, the same golden ratio exists within our own bodies as well as within plants and animals. Even DNA is shaped like a spiral.
The clearest symbol of the golden ratio is the star.
I think stars themselves are the origin of beauty.
When we think about beauty, if we align our consciousness with the stars, we naturally tend towards that design.
There is beauty in designs that match the stars, whether in the design of our own bodies or in the designs that we create.