Sunday, March 09, 2014

In Defense of Daylight Savings Time

     I want to take a minute today, Company, to comment on Daylight Savings Time.  Today is Sunday, March 9, 2014 and Daylight Savings Time began early this morning for this year.  Now, I understand that it is complicated and somewhat archaic the way we have chosen to tell unified time in the United States, but people have been taking pot shots at Daylight Savings Time lately and I feel as if I should defend it.
      Lately, this meme - or some similar variation thereof - has been showing up on a fair number of Facebook profiles:

First of all, I don't know if this is a true story or not, so let's just get that out of the way.  And while I understand that this is the type of thinking that at time has been employed by our government, I can't help but feel that all this meme does is show a fundamental misunderstanding of what Daylight Savings Time really is.
     Switching to and from Daylight Savings Time in order to maximize the amount of daylight that the bulk of the population is exposed to is nothing like the blanket analogy shown in the meme, okay?  It is not like trying to remove sunlight from the beginning of the day and moving it to the end.  It is simple a change in the way that we humans arbitrarily place value on a natural physical phenomenon, namely time.  Time - as the saying goes - is relative.  The only reason that the sun comes up at, say 6AM for instance, is because we have happened to apply the label 6 AM to the time that the sun is coming up.  And we can choose to give that particular point in the movement of the sun across the sky any label we choose.  So if we choose - twice a year - to switch all the labels that we arbitrarily apply to certain points of the day for any reason we have the ability to do so.
     The enactment of Daylight Savings Time actually shows the exact opposite of what the meme is trying to impart.  One of the juxtapositions of Native American vs. White culture is that Native Americans have historically bent their society to the will of nature and the lay of the land, whereas White culture has always just blasted into nature head on.  Creating complex engineering schemes to grow crops in marginal areas instead of just growing them where the conditions are good.  Building elaborate bridges and tunnels instead of just putting the road where it is easiest to do so.  Building buildings to withstand avalanches instead of just not putting buildings in that place.  That kind of thing.  But Daylight Savings Time shows that we understand that at the most basic level nature is always the constant that cannot ever be totally tamed.  Daylight Savings Time is us showing that we are willing to move the way we mark time, and ALL OF THE ELEMENTS OF LIFE, SOCIETY, CULTURE, ETC. that depend on that arbitrary system of labels.  We take the time and effort to switch all of those things AND their connections in order to simple utilize what nature provides us in a more efficient and useful manner.  So maybe, just maybe the thinking isn't as skewed as it seems on the surface.
     In the end, my biggest problem with the meme is simple that the comparison is flawed.  Daylight Savings Time is not like cutting the top off the blanket and sewing it back on the bottom and expecting the blanket to be longer.  We understand that the amount of daylight is finite.  It is not like chopping hours off the morning and slapping them on the afternoon.  No.  What Daylight Savings Time is like is pulling the blanket up to your neck because you are already wearing socks.  It is putting the resource to the area that you can best use it.  Having daylight at 5 AM doesn't do a whole lot of good for the bulk of the "civilized" world, just like a blanket covering feet wearing socks is just overkill.  But having daylight later in the evening is like using that blanket to cover your bare upper chest.  It gets a lot more done.
     All I know is that yesterday at 6:00 PM it was dark outside.  Today at 6:00 PM it is light outside.  And it is not because the day suddenly became longer.  It is because we have chosen to move the arbitrary markers of time that we have applied to the natural day.  And if the price of my getting more done in the afternoon, and turning the lamp on a little less, is simple to change my clocks around twice a year and losing an hour of sleep in the spring, I am not sure that I can complain.

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