“Beware the Ides of March,” Shakespeare famously warned in “Julius Caesar.” The eponymous emperor was killed on that day, March 15, which in the Roman calendar was known as a day for settling debts.
There are undeniable patterns in history. When it comes to social, political and economic ones, we can analyze and understand them. When it comes to things like calendar dates, however, while we can recognize a pattern, we lack the metaphysical knowledge to understand why.
This past week witnessed one of those: On April 15, a massive fire destroyed in large part the famed Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, France. It didn’t take long for people to point out other tragedies that occurred on April 15. In 1912, the Titanic sank during the night of April 14-15. In 1865, President Lincoln died on April 15 after being shot on April 14. In 2013, terrorists attacked the Boston Marathon, leaving three dead and injuring hundreds.
What is it about April 15 — and the evening of April 14, while we’re at it?
The Germans, whose multitudinous compound words succeed at being greater than the sum of their parts, have coined a term for it: Schicksaltag, or Day of Fate. For them, it’s November 9. The most fateful events of 20th-century German history have occurred on that calendar date, often, like with April 15, beginning the evening before. Among them: the abdication of the Kaiser in 1918. The failed Beer Hall Putsch in 1923. Kristallnacht in 1938. The fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. Goosebumps?
April 15 and November 9 are evidence of the limits to our knowledge of the universe.
Shana Goldberg may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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