(From the January 9, 2020 edition of the Grand Haven Tribune)
Someone said on social media recently that this may be the decade when paper calendars go away. After all, he reasoned, digital calendars have been around for some time. Paper calendars are unwieldy and unnecessary.
But many commented to the contrary. Paper calendars are still used, either instead of or in addition to the digital variety. I was among those chiming in regarding the continued merits of old-school paper calendars.
I use the calendar on my phone. In addition, I have a note pad and a reminder app that coordinates with my phone calendar. All of these digital tools on my phone sync to both my personal and work computers as well as my watch.
But recently I bought eight paper calendars.
There is the large calendar on the wall of my home office. It has gorgeous large photos of natural scenes for each month. January is an aerial view of the Swiss alps. February is a creek winding through a snowy wood. I will wait to be pleased by the appearance of subsequent scenes of visual splendor as the year progresses.
I have a similar calendar in our kitchen. This one features various animals. A small calendar is situated across the kitchen next to the coffee pot. It features beautiful scenes and Pslams. Why not ponder divine wisdom while I wait to live and move and have my coffee bean? Another small such calendar for my campus office features scenes from America’s national parks.
All of these calendars have the dates for the month too, which comes in handy when I want to quickly look up and see what is the date two Tuesdays from now? But mostly, they serve a purpose more aesthetic than organizational. They are decidedly not about planning, purposefully not digital. They are all about looking up from the dreary digital task of the moment, and considering the timeless majesty of God’s creation.
In addition to these wall calendars, I have several for the desktop that feature something delightful every single day. These daily calendars mark the date and day of the week for sure. But the one on my desk at home has images of islands from around the world. These remind me of warm, lovely places and relaxing times in our past travels or potential future destinations. Another, for my campus office, has a cartoon from the New Yorker for every day. A little humor can brighten my day and offer a counterweight perspective to whatever else may be on my mind.
Also for my desktops are weekly planners. There’s a basic one at work that travels in my briefcase, and a National Geographic photo one on my desk at home. In both cases, they serve as a useful place for short-term to-do lists, plans for specific tasks. Yes, the digital calendars have deadlines and reminders. But there is a primal joy that comes from writing down and then crossing off, by hand, with pen, a set of accomplishments.
I remember years ago when the first PDAs (Personal Digital Assistants) came on the market. The Palm Pilot was a favorite. In offices around the country, early adapters were showing these gadgets to colleagues still weighed down by Franklin Planners and other leather-bound professional appointment and note-taking books. Some who toted these calendars around or plopped them on conference tables were laughed at by techy colleagues.
Franklin Planners still exist. So do many other forms of binders and paper inserts for daily, weekly, or monthly spreads awaiting pen or pencil from people making plans and lists.
In addition to the visual and tactile advantages these paper calendars have, many also appreciate their reliability. Studies show that memory is enhanced by the mere act of writing something down with pen versus keyboard. It is also notable that, while such calendars could be misplaced, they never crash or run out of battery power.
We have reached the year 2020. Many years ago, when I considered this year as long in the future, it sounded so advanced, almost like science fiction. 2020? What would life be like then? Will we have world peace? Will there be a cure for cancer? Will Congress get along? Will we have free, abundant and renewable energy? Will the Lions win in the post season?
Not yet on any of those things. So far 2020 is just another year. But at least we have all manner of paper calendars to tell us that.