Sacred Time and Daylight
It is a curious concept that we can “save” time. And perhaps even more curious is that we can “save” daylight. These are not commodities, after all. And they are known to be especially “fleeting,” so they are hard to catch, never mind saving and keeping them. But most of us across the nation (exceptions of Hawaii and Arizona) will dutifully reset our clocks tomorrow to “spring” ahead an hour to comply with "daylight savings time” (DST). I’m not quite sure what I think about the issue (if it matters!), but I have been pondering today about how we measure (and treasure) our time and sunshine, and what it means to try to savor them as well as “save” them and hold them with grace and gratitude.
Given the scope of our nation’s problems, the time change controversy* seems quite trivial. But is important because time issues intersect prominently with our very personal lives. We actually put very high value on “saving" time in terms of efficiency, and “keeping" time provides the structure by which we in the west spend our lives and coordinate them with others. For me time management is hard wired into my psyche it seems. During the day I repeatedly check my watch, but even in sleep I have a very curious ability to wake up in the middle of the night, and, without looking at a clock, I can usually tell within half hour what time it is. What’s that about?
The health issues related to the controversy over DST have to do with the interference with our established circadian rhythms** and the imposition of an altered standard that means we wake up groggy with the loss of an hour’s sleep that may also affect our heart and mental stability. I remember as a child, as much as I enjoyed the extra evening sunshine during the summer, I could barely get up and go to school those first few days after the time change, and I vaguely remember my mom taking pity on me and allowing me to be late! And as noted in the definition below, we humans are again interfering with nature’s own time frame when we radically change animal feeding and milking schedules, for example.
So what does it matter when our culture presumes to manipulate our environment? On the one hand, providing a system that provides us more evening daylight time eight months of the year is such a clever, most often welcome, and rational accommodation to our lives. On the other hand I consider this elemental imposition questionable. Would we not be better off if we lived more “off the clock” and better connected with the rhythm of nature as I presume is true of many indigenous people, and certainly animals, who rely instead on the circuitry of the sun and our bodily and intuitive “circadian rhythms” that tell us it’s time to eat and sleep?
More and more we in the west are reminded that our compulsive busyness and preoccupation with time is not only unhealthy for us personally, but it is unhealthy for us as a culture because it makes us feel driven to production and efficiency that interferes with priority for relationships. As an antidote, for example,Thich Naht Hahn taught us to slowly and mindfully eat our tangerines. And I keep reading how important it is to observe a sabbath of quiet and removal from the preoccupations of our work and scheduled life for our spiritual well-being and equilibrium.
None of us dare, of course, to independently declare ourselves free from the cultural responsibility to comply with expectations of time keeping whether it is DST or otherwise. But we can, however, treat our sense of time as sacred gift. And, no, we can’t “save” our time and our sunshine, but we can treat them with our reverence and respect.
*Like most issues these days the public is divided with a relatively small majority of 62% wanting to establish DST as the standard year round and avoid the spring and fall time changes, and Congress continues to debate the issue. The Senate surprisingly unanimously passed the Sunshine Protection Act in May of 2022 that would have established DST as a year round standard, but it was not voted on in the House. If and when Congress ever does approve the proposed law, it would mean that in November, following passage, we simply would not change back from the DST standard.
**Circadian rhythms are physical, mental, and behavioral changes that follow a 24-hour cycle. These natural processes respond primarily to light and dark and affect most living things, including animals, plants, and microbes. Chronobiology is the study of circadian rhythms.
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