Thoughts by Richard Bleil
My friend asked me about an old saying not too long ago. We’ve all heard that March “comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb”. For the past week(ish), we’ve been in the midst of a brutal arctic blast, one last (hopefully last) reminder that we are, indeed, still in winter. February is clearly still a winter month. But March is a transition. Between February winter and April Spring, we have March to usher in the new season. I’ve always assumed that this saying was basically referring to this transition from the cold of the winter to the warmth of the spring.
My friend asked what struck me as an odd question. She asked if the saying meant that, if March comes in like a lamb, does it mean that it will go out like a lamb? Well, that’s ludicrous. The saying clearly describes the transition period, I explained, and does not suggest that the opposite would be true in the event of a mild early March.
Then she did something that completely disrespected me. She looked it up. Can you imagine? Seriously, I’m a man, you know, so that means I’m right. Our entire society is built on the concept that men are superior and always right, and to question that natural order of things is just flaunting tradition, and no polite woman would ever question a man’s intelligence. And for the love of GOD I hope my readers all know that I’m saying this ironically. The idea is to get you, my reader, to chuckle, especially if you are female because what I’m actually trying to do here is make fun of men who ACTUALLY believe this nonsense to be true.
Okay, back to the real post and the point that I actually wanted to make. According to her research, I was wrong. Again. As I often am. Well, of course I was wrong. I am a man, after all.
According to her research, the phrase actually comes from the Farmer’s Almanac and does, indeed, refer to balance in nature. It is intended to say that a mild start to March will lead to a bitter end, as nature will balance itself out. Having pointed out to me just how VERY wrong I really am, a couple of quick thoughts crossed my mind.
First, it points out a common misunderstanding of statistics many people have. If you flip a coin seven times and it comes up heads each time, most people will think that surely the next flip will be tails. As it turns out, in statistics, each new flip is independent of the previous flips. Statistically speaking, the previous flips have no influence whatsoever on the upcoming flip. Statistically, a rough start to March should have no mathematical influence on the end of March. The statistics do not change. But, having said that, I’ve recently read an article that did suggest that trends might be able to predict the outcome of that eighth flip. The odds of eight flips coming up heads in a row is actually one in 256. The odds of seven in a row is one in 128, and the series increases by a factor of two. So even though that one flip has a 50/50 chance of coming up tails, the odds of the eighth flip is very much against it. My mathematician friend, if he is reading this, is screaming at the screen right now, but I only bring it up as a concept.
Outside of mathematics, the second thought that crossed my mind is how Taoist this concept really is. The Farmer’s Almanac speaks of balance in nature, while the Tao te Ching speaks of the flow of Yin and Yang, one into the other continuously. This, also, is about balance, and is wise to remember. Much like statistics, the Tao doesn’t have a time component to the concept. The Yin element may be in control for hours, days, months or even years before Yang again overtakes it. I just got through a depressive episode that lasted for at least a month or two. The Tao suggests that there is balance over sufficient time, so a rough start to march may not necessarily mean the end will be better. It may not even balance out for years. If March starts and ends roughly, then sometime, years down the road, chances are we’ll have a March that begins and ends mildly. It will balance out, but you cannot predict how long this might take.
Or maybe I’m just trying to justify why I was wrong. Typical guy move.