Bark at the Moon

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I had an idea recently to write in accordance with lunar cycles.
For instance writing on days of a full moon. Possibly some sort of special entry, like “Midnight Messages from the Moon,” or “Lunar Libations,” or something equally witty.
I planned to continue writing at my leisure, but making an effort to write a special post on these days.

Why?

Well, it’s partially because writing in terms of calendar dates seems meaningless. I mean the Gregorian calendar, used by most of western society, is a fairly arbitrary way of marking dates.
Yes the “year” is approximately one cycle around the sun (365.2425 days). That’s all well and good, but why is “new years day” on January 1st? The truth is that there is no logical reason for this choice. It’s arbitrary.
A more logical choice would be to use the solstice (Dec. 21 -ish). This is less arbitrary.
As for the months in Gregory’s calendar, they almost line up with one cycle of the moon’s phases (27.3 days), but not quite. The weeks follow lunar cycles closely, but are slightly off (4 weeks = 28 days).

“Ok Tyler, but that doesn’t explain why you feel the need to write in terms of lunar cycles.”

Well let’s go back to the last full moon…
I remember feeling strange. I felt aggressive, aroused, I slept poorly, and had strange dreams.
Now this doesn’t really prove anything. There could be a plethora of other reasons for this (diet, activity, life circumstances, etc.). I couldn’t say for sure that the moon phase was causing it, but it made me wonder “what if” it was affecting me. I needed more data.

Now some of you might be saying, “Tyler, you’ve lost it. You’ve gone off the deep end. You talking like some sort of witch or pagan or lunatic.”

Well my friends I’m as sane as I ever was (or as crazy), I’m just opening myself up to new ideas, and new ways of looking at the world in which we live.
And is this idea as crazy as many of us believe to be?
Let’s take a look.

Where do we begin?
How about the beginning?

History

Belief that the moon effects human behaviour can be traced back to the days of Babylon and Assyria. Basically the “beginnings” of human civilization, when we moved from nomadic hunter-gatherers to agrarian (farmers) city-builders.
So this theory isn’t new.

We can also look to the Roman Empire.
Ahh Rome, the light of civilization amidst the dark of barbarian savagery.
The words lunatic and lunacy are both derived from lunaticus meaning “of the moon” or “moonstruck” in Latin (the word luna meaning “moon”).

“She didn’t quite know what the relationship was between lunatics and the moon, but it must be a strong one, if they used a word like that to describe the insane.”
– Paulo Coelho,
Veronika Decides to Die

Now you might say, “Tyler, they were uneducated savages and heathens, they didn’t know anything about the world, they believed in witchcraft and superstition.”
OK, so there were many misguided beliefs throughout history, but there are still many today (people think the world is only 5000 years old, or that human races form a hierarchy in which the melanin deficient are on top).
Take a minute to look at the intelligence of these societies. These are the people that built the Hanging Gardens of Babylon and the Coliseum without modern tools.
They were master astronomers, able to predict the position of celestial bodies through refined observation techniques (and they definitely didn’t have a Hubble Space Telescope to help them). They put forward the helio-centric model of the solar system (the fact that the Earth goes around the sun, and not the other way around). They were aware that the Earth was round long before Columbus sailed the ocean blue.
These were not ignorant savages, these were highly advanced civilizations, capable of logic and reason.
And they believed that we humans were somehow being affected by the moon and it’s rotation.

Let’s fast forward to today.

The Present

These day we like to turn to science to answer all of life’s mysteries.

What is Science?

The common misconception is that science is the pursuit of truth. Not true.
Science is the about disproving falsehood.
What’s the difference?

Let’s look at an example:
I have a theory.
My theory states that all animals have two eyes.
How do I prove this?
Easy, I find every animal in existence (and throughout history) and check that it has two eyes.
OK, maybe not so easy.
Then what do I do?
I try and disprove it.
I find animals, and check if they have two eyes.
If I find a one-eyed (or three-eyed or more) animal, I have proven my theory as false, end of discussion.
But, until that moment the theory stands.
It hasn’t been “proven” true, but until it’s proven false, it’s a valid theory.
Not “true,” yet not “untrue.”

This is why we say “the Theory of Relativity” or “the Big Bang Theory.”
We can’t prove these to be true, but they are a “best guess” based on the information we have.

So what separates a good theory from a not-so-good theory?

Observation, experimentation, and measurement.
If I propose my theory of di-ocular (two-eyed) animals, the first question to ask is, “have you tested this theory?”
“Of course I have! I have extensive research on the subject, I have personally analyzed many animals to test this theory.”
“Well, how many animals have you observed?”
“Three. You, me, and my dog Spot.”
Not a lot of confidence in this theory is there?
If I had said “5000,” you might have more confidence.
But that doesn’t change the fact that it is still a theory, albeit a little more legitimate.

So what does the almighty science have to say about the moon’s effect on humans?

The jury is still out.

We as of yet can’t prove that the moon does or does not affect us.
But we can come up with a theory and look at weather or not there is evidence to support or disprove it.

Our theory:

The moon has a perceivable effect on human behaviour.

What’s our evidence?

My personal experience. The effects of the last full moon, and the current full moon, which have been similar.

Well, that probably isn’t enough to put forward a legitimate theory of the effects of the moon on humans.
It could just mean I’m a werewolf (I do have the appropriate body hair).

So what else have we got?

In Brighton, UK the police have been putting more officers on the street during full moons, after a correlation was discovered between full moons and criminal activity.
A study of 1,200 inmates at Armley jail in Leeds, showed an increase of violent incidence in the days preceding and just after the full moon.
Anecdotal evidence from many people (police officers, emergency room personal, those in the service industry, etc.)
According to one study nearly 50% of Americans believe that moon phases affect humans (although this isn’t evidence, it is food for thought).
Many religious beliefs hold full moons as holy days.

So most of this is doesn’t really count as evidence…

Women’s menstrual cycles are the same as lunar cycles (approximately 28 days).
This is something we can work with.
Some have argued that this is merely coincidence.
I find the term coincidence (especially in this context) to be a cop-out.
A correlation like this must be significant, they line up too closely to not have some sort of relation.
Throughout history the moon is often equated with female deities.
There’s something to that I think.

This paper is the one that really gets me:
Lunar Cycle Effects in Stock Returns
It show statistically a large correlation between moon cycle (full and new specifically) and stock market returns.
Why is this one so significant?
Because unlike other studies that involve small groups of hundreds or thousands, or involve only those with deviant behavioural patterns, this study involves millions of people, and not only those afflicted by mental health issues. It’s people from many walks of life.
Also the range of the data is long, about 100 years for the American data, and 25 – 30 years for many of the other countries. And is accurately recorded.
Pages 44-46 have graphical representations of the findings, if you don’t feel like reading the whole paper (understandable, the jargon can be a bit much).
This is not the only study of it’s kind either. Just ask google.

So where are we at?

Well there is a good chance that humans are being affected by the moon.

But now the question remains, how?
What is it that is causing us to be affected?

Well there’s a few theories:

– That the extra light at night is causing our sleep to be disrupted and we then become agitated due to lack of sleep.
Not a terrible theory but since most humans now live in cities with electric lighting it seems less likely (and I sleep with my blinds closed).

– That the gravitational pull of the moon is affecting us.
This theory states that since the moon affects tides, which are water, it must affect humans, which are mostly water.
This theory doesn’t really make a lot of sense. Firstly, gravity affects everything with mass, including, but not limited to water.
Secondly, we are always being affected by the moon’s gravity, it has no relation to the moon’s cycles. The moon is always there, even when we don’t see it, and it is at a constant distance from Earth (there are slight variations but these are very minor).

– That the full moon causes an increase in the amount of positive ions in the air.
This theory states that positively charged ions have a detrimental effect on humans, in both health and mood. Ideally we want to be in an environment of negatively charged ions, which have a positive or neutral effect.
This theory may have some merit.
As the Earth is bombarded by the suns rays, the radiation in sunlight (ie: UV rays), is striking and exciting the particles it hits, creating an electrical charge. The theory states that this causes a static charge, this static discharges into air particulates (ie: dust), leaving behind an area of positively charged air particles.
The reason why a full moon increases this effect is because the Earth is continuing to receive solar energy throughout the night (being reflected off the moon) causing an overall increase in the amount of positive ions for the period of the full moon.
I started to look into this theory and I have found that this seems to be a growing school of thought. Toyota motor company’s R&D division has released a study stating that increased negative ions can increase driver alertness. Negative ion generators are being marketed for homes and workplaces to improve alertness and mood (as most indoor environments have low quantities of negative ions).

So am I going to run out and buy a negative ion generator?
Not yet.
I mean I’m not the kind of person who rushes out and buys “miracle” cures for life’s problems (I don’t wear magnetic wristbands or such).
But I do like to be informed. I like to learn what makes us tick, and what affects us as humans.
Maybe the charge of the ions in our environment does affect us, maybe not. I’m no scientist.
But I’m not gonna discount it just because it doesn’t fit into my existing world view.

I do believe that the moon affects us as humans. Just the fact that we, and our environment, are being exposed to increased solar energy (radiation) in the nighttime hours, makes me believe that we are affected. We know the suns rays affect us, look at vitamin D production or sunburns.
Perhaps the level to which we are affected and the ways in which we are affected may change depending on various factors.
Those with a tendency towards aggression, may be more aggressive. Those with a tendency towards depression, may be more depressed.
It may depended on your health at the time, or what’s occurring in your life.
It could be dependent on quality of air or amount of light pollution.
There so many possible factors, how can we know?

There’s only one way to find out.
Observation and experience.

Watch your own behaviour.
Is the moon affecting you?
Keep an eye on the sky and one on your heart.
Do you have a disturbed sleep when the moon is full?
How’s your health?
How are your dreams?

I’m gonna watch my behaviours around the time of lunar events, and I encourage you to do the same.
And if you feel comfortable, I would love for you to share your findings with me.
I’m curious.
I study the human condition, whatever condition that may be.

What do you think, are we as humans affected by the moon? Yea or nay?

Well my curious friends, until next time,

Namaste.

 

“We are going to the moon that is not very far. Man has so much farther to go within himself.”
– Anaïs Nin

2 thoughts on “Bark at the Moon

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