Thinking about the number ’10’ is hard. It’s the number of years I will have soon been a journalist for (as will my ACJ batchmates). Why commemorate it?
- In this time, I’ve seen many of my colleagues and peers in different organisations quit journalism for communications jobs in non-journalistic settings, which pay better and are likely easier on the mind and on life. So to be able to persist for so long in this profession, also rendered more treacherous by a vengeful state, is to question one’s privileges on various levels.
- Ten is a round number, and that roundness has I suspect something uniquely bio-psychological going for it. Our choice of the decimal number system is surely rooted in the number of fingers on our hands, which makes counting in multiples of 10 intuitive. Other than this, the value of 10 – that is, to have 10 of something – seems inscrutable. Do we commemorate six years of something? Or 11 or 4.5? To celebrate 10 often seems to be a privilegement of our own biology – especially when we have achieved little else.
- When The Wire Science interviewed physicist Kip Thorne in 2017, the interviewer asked him if the discovery of gravitational waves 100 years after Einstein’s development of general relativity meant anything special to him. Thorne said: “Oh no, not particularly. We just happen to use base-10. If we used base-9, it wouldn’t work. Maybe I have faith in our choice of the base.” Modern classical as well as quantum computing use base-2 systems (0s/1s and two-dimensional Hilbert space, respectively). It’s all a matter of convenience – which I only say to conclude that commemorations based on time alone seem inherently meaningless (except when the passage of time is itself a virtue).
- In December 2018, I wrote to a close friend in an email: “On December 23, 2018, I will be 3.94 galactic seconds old (one galactic year is the time Earth takes to go around the Milky Way, about 240 million years). Isn’t that simply more celestial? On May 26, 2019, I will be 4 galactic seconds old.” A nice, round number – but comfort in what is this? Positive integers? Rational numbers? But most importantly, it’s a reminder that there is no fixed way to measure time.
- I wrote this post today, May 10, 2022, Tuesday. I’ve developed a habit of making anagrams when I’m bored, and found Anu Garg’s wordsmith.org as a result when I was looking for an anagram animator. I also subscribed to Garg’s newsletter about words and made a donation to support his work on it; you don’t find many newsletters dedicated to words whose authors don’t also bother their readers with too much of their own writing (e.g. Maria Popova). The weekly theme in the newsletter for the week of May 9 is words related to time. Opportune. The word for Monday in particular was timeous: “in good time”. Example: “I knew Bridget always ran out of supplies during a party and thought I should make timeous provision” (source: Andre Brink; Before I Forget; Sourcebooks; 2007).
My commemoration of having been a professional journalist for 10 years wouldn’t be timeous.