Wishing you a Blessed Newtonmas!

Wishing you a Blessed Newtonmas! December 25, 2023

Sir Isaac Newton
Engraving after
G. Kneller, 1702

 

 

 

 

“Nature and nature’s laws lay hid in night;

God said ‘Let Newton be” and all was light.”

Alexander Pope

Me, I like Christmas. Actually I love it.

But here I am in the early hours of Christmas day. And my thoughts drift in several ways..

For one.

We’ll be celebrating the day in the conventional American way, gathering with family and friends. Within a couple hours the gathered clan will be trying to avoid revisiting old slights, pointing out other’s absurd and perhaps dangerous political positions, and sharing disappointment in each other’s religious views. Sitting on judgments of the younger member’s lifestyle choices are completely optional.

For some years now Jan and I have been in charge of producing a meal that will accommodate the sensibilities of the majority who believe spilled blood must be featured in every meal and the vegans who are offended at hearing about cheese. We’ve been working on this theme for years now. And we’ve won some small victories in the accommodating each other vein…

Today we’re going with pasta (store bought, two choices, both vegan, squash and mushroom) in a basically vegan menu (with cheese and some sausage to put into the marinara offered on the side). Basically an Italian, or maybe more accurately Mediterranean inspired festival.

And…

In these early hours, my mind and a bit of my heart goes to those other festivals of this day. And in the moment one in particular more connected to that Facebook meme “the reason for the season is the tilt of the planet’s axis.”

If you didn’t know, there is a stalwart minority who remind us that Issac Newton was born on this day in 1642. Talk about fulfilling the abundant promise to be found at the moment of a child’s birth. Newton would become one of the greatest scientists in our history.

As Wikipedia notes “Newton described universal gravitation and the three laws of motion which dominated the scientific view of the physical universe for the next three centuries. In mathematics, Newton shares the credit with Gottfried Leibniz for the development of the differential and integral calculus.”

Me, I also like how he bridged the pre-scientific and scientific worlds. In addition to his work in mathematics, optics, mechanics, and gravitation, he was a working alchemist, seeking the philosopher’s stone. And, it doesn’t hurt that he was a serious biblical scholar who read himself into a theological unitarian. Thinking of Newton makes me smile.

Some within the rationalist community like to call Newton’s birthday, today, the 25th of December, as Newtonmas. They send cards emblazoned with “Reason’s Greetings!” and exchange gifts of apples. Wikipedia speculates “The name Newtonmas can be attributed to The Skeptics Society, which needed an alternative name for its Christmas party. Another name for this holiday is Gravmas (also spelt Gravmass or Grav-mass) which is an abbreviation of “gravitational mass” due to Newton’s Theory of Gravitation.

This low key, and generally tongue in cheek holiday continues as a subtext to the day. For example last year the wonderful contemporary science popularizer, Neil deGrasse Tyson tweeted “On this day long ago, a child was born who, by age 30, would transform the world. Happy birthday Isaac Newton…”

Okay, almost time to start cooking.

And, me, I’m wishing the blessings of the season on all of us.

All of ’em…

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