“You will never find anybody who can give you a clear and compelling reason why we observe daylight saving time.” – Dave Barry
As we bid adieu to winter and look forward to warm weather ahead, we also slam into the speed bump known as Daylight Saving Time each March. To be sure, “spring forward” is only a mnemonic device–no one embraces the idea of suddenly having to get up an hour earlier with that degree of enthusiasm.
And just as predictably, each March, the complaints rain down like April showers. We invoke our fragile biorhythms. We invoke the wisdom of Native Americans. We invoke the unchanged feeding schedules of our pets. We declaim the commodification of time itself, as we scoff at the futile efforts to project the will of economics onto a dimension of our reality that simply is–the very idea of saving daylight and bending time itself to our feeble human whims! Harrumph!
I identify with some of the annoyance and disruption; I am not a morning person, and I expect I will arrive at work late at least one day this week, if history is any guide. I also understand that we can’t make time different just by passing federal guidelines. And yes, I know that the amount of daylight does not increase by virtue of our collective hat trick–it simply moves to a different part of the day.
But folks, c’mon.
We all have our gripes. I know I do. And some people have legitimate medical and emotional needs that stand to be disrupted by this seasonal jolt. I do not in any way wish to minimize the impact of the time change on those people. However, for the rest of us, I think we may be a little harsh and hypocritical when it comes to our friend, the Notorious D.S.T.
Time doesn’t change, but our ways of dividing and conquering it are inescapable in today’s world. Each inconvenient manifestation represents a compromise–it sucks a little, but it keeps our planet interconnected in a consistent and efficient way.
DST is far from the only time-bending exercise we humans collectively agree to. Time zones create magical time-travel dotted lines where it’s one hour earlier on one side and one hour later on the other. We slip in an extra day every four years; where does February 29th go during the other three years? The powers-that-be also add extra minutes and seconds when we aren’t looking to keep the solar year from gradually shifting from the established cadence.
And don’t get me started on the International Date Line. How many people have felt their sense of reality taken from them after hopping on a plane on Sunday and traveling for 14 hours into Tuesday? Not to mention the poor people whose hopes were dashed when they realized it wasn’t a service for meeting their life partner.
I someday hope to actually turn into Dave Barry. As you can read, I have a long way to go. However, I can’t say that I agree with his assessment, tongue-in-cheek or not. Once I shake off the fog of getting up early this first week, I expect to retrieve all the stated benefits of DST: a sense of there being more time in the day, late sunsets (especially here in Atlanta, where we are far west within the Eastern Time Zone), and more time to be out and about than I would otherwise.
No doubt that DST helps commerce and gets to the economic root of the practice, but if there’s anything that we can say is popular this week, it’s an economic stimulus, right?
If you think about it with a philosophical bent, DST is a ham-handed but effective way for us humans to do what we’ve always done: chase down time, corner it, and juice every drop of energy, joy, and life from it. It’s the same reason we practice mediation and go on vacations–we want to enjoy our limited time by being fully involved in as much of it as we can.
Daylight is a metaphor for life itself, and planning our days around its ebbs and flows is just as natural for us as it is for time to not pay attention to our silly theatrics and to keep flowing as it always does. DST is the act of humans being humans, imposing our awkward innovations on an indifferent nature.
My ask is that we do not unduly deride Daylight Saving Time because its artifice is not so neatly concealed as our other inventions, and because its unfortunate focus is on our morning routines. Maybe none of us are morning people, after all, and taking an hour of sleep from us is the most annoying thing any “innovation” could hope to achieve.
I’ll grant you it’s annoying. But I am ok with the payoff.