I think I was in second grade. Maybe a bit younger or older, but usually my memory turns out to be pretty close about these kinds of things. So I think I’d have been about 7 or 8 years old.
What I remember for certain is that it was a Saturday. It’s the only reason that mom and I would have been home in the middle of the day when the salesman knocked on the door. The rest of the family would have been home too, but they aren’t part of the tale my memory tells me.
The salesman when we opened the door was dressed in a suit and tie, probably something that today would look ridiculous, since this’d have been the early 80s. He had a smallish but clearly heavy box with him that had the imprimatur of World Book Encyclopedia on the side. Mom invited him in, which I find surprising still today. Mom wasn’t a fan – nor am I – of anyone selling anything and she was suspicious of people who went door-to-door. This leads me to think he must have made the appointment previously. Perhaps by a cold-call, though I find this scenario equally as unlikely.
So maybe mom put aside her distrust in favor the intrinsic value of his wares. I can’t be sure.
It wasn’t encyclopedias he was selling, though. It was a set of books called Childcraft. There were a dozen or so books in the set, each volume about a certain broad topic. I remember one was a collection of stories and poems from all kinds of cultures. Another was about trees and plants. Another simply called ‘How Things Work.’ These books were colorful, with illustrations and images, and clearly geared toward curious children.
I was most certainly a curious child.
One of the books the salesman had brought that day was a book I think called Earth and Space, or something like that.1 In what was likely a calculated move, he’d pulled each book out of the box, showed them individually to mom and then left them on the floor while he talked to her about things that kids don’t care about, such trivialities as ‘price’ and ‘payment plans.’ Curious and bored, I made my way over to the pile of books and picked up Earth and Space.
I don’t know how long they talked, but I do know that by the time he’d finished his pitch I’d made my way through more than half of the book.2 I think this, more than anything, is why Mom agreed to buy the set.3
It was in this book that I learn about a little phenomenon called precession.4
This is why this hubbub regarding the Zodiac shift is stupid: I’ve known about it since I was 8!
Not that I’ve known about it; more that it’s nothing new.
Parke Kunkle, the Minnesota Planetarium Society board member who published the report that got the nation’s attention and therefore cast him as The Man Who Changed the Zodiac, said he was just commenting on a well-known fact.5
This is part of why I’ve never believed in astrology. The notion that my character, fortune and future are determined by an arrangement of stars on the day I was born is ridiculous, yes. I think a lot of people would admit that, even those who believe. But that this system has been one sign off for a long time completely evaporates any possibility of truth it may have. I am perfectly willing to believe in esoteric systems, sure. But give that system a logical basis and then continue to propagate that logical basis when it’s been incorrect for years and there is simply no way I’m going to buy what you’re selling me.
I’ve seen some comments out there essentially saying that your sign is your sign, that just because the entire foundation of the system is proven to be wrong doesn’t mean that the results based on that foundation is wrong.
How the hell does that make any damn sense?
Let’s look at it another way. Let’s say I find a recipe on the internets. Let’s says it’s for chocolate cake.6 I carefully follow the measurements and instructions but in the end what I pull out of the oven is an apple pie. Following the ‘yours sign is your sign’ logic, I would question neither the claim that the recipe was for cake nor the fact that I made a pie. Instead, I would simply tell everyone I’ve made chocolate cake whilst serving them apple pie.
I’ve never really had much truck with astrology, though I do think the Zodiac is cool. This ‘new’ mess and the reactions to it just give me all the more reason to go on ignoring it as I always have.
- I realize I probably look these titles up on the internets but for this story I’d like to stick to my memory. This is one childhood memory of mine in which Mom gets to be the hero. Whether her fault or mine (or both), my memory affords her so very, very few of these that I’d like it to remain as pure as it can be.
- His presentation may have been long, but I was a fast reader as a kid. So maybe not.
- I have a reputation these days of being a purveyor of trivia, of random facts and information. When people ask, “How do you know that?” I never had an answer until a few years ago when I looked through these books whilst at the parents’ house for Christmas and realized that a lot of trivia I’d been spouting for years I first happened across in that set of Childcraft books.
- A brief guide to precession: The earth spins on its axis. The earth’s axis is not vertical, but tilted. This tilt, combined with the speed-of-rotation, causes the earth not to be precisely spherical. Basically, it’s a bit lumpy in the middle, like any modern American. Being somewhat oblong, combined with the gravitational pull of the moon, causes the earth’s to wobble a bit as the earth spins. Think of a child’s top: when you first set it to spinning it spins vertically; as it slows, the top part begins to wobble (this is called nutation). This is what happens to earth. This causes out view of the sky to shift, albeit slowly. I can’t remember the exact rate, but it’s fast enough that when Ptolemy invented the astrological system we still use five-thousand years ago the Zodiac was in a different spot than it is today.
- Insert any saw-this-coming type joke here.