A Simple Rule

The rules are simple:
they lie to us,
we know they’re lying,
they know we know they’re lying,
but they keep lying to us,
and we keep pretending to believe them.

Often attributed to Solzenhitsyn, this quote is, apparently, from Elena Gorokhova ( A Mountain of Crumbs). On North American Daylight Saving Sunday (it has a lovely lilt, no?), what on Earth would make me think of this?

I suppose the comparison is hardly fair: at worst, Daylight Saving Time (DST) is not so much a lie as a willing suspension of disbelief, the same ability that allows us to enjoy all sorts of literary fantasies. At best, it’s an exemplar of our ability to cooperate in small matters for the greater convenience, perhaps even for the greater good.

The rules are simple:
they tell us it’s 8:00 AM,
we know it’s 7:00 AM,
they know we know what time it is,
they keep telling us it’s an hour later,
and we keep pretending to believe it.

Given the havoc DST wreaks on the time-sensitive among us, why do we keep pretending to believe it? The greater-convenience aspect is clear: It makes modern life simpler if we all agree on certain arbitrary but not ridiculous conventions. Hence, for example, time zones. As we were recently booting across Texas–a two-overnight state–I had opportunity to observe the difference in sun time from the western end of a time zone (Central, in this case) to the eastern end. By the clock, we hit the road, Jack, at 7:30 AM both days: once in pre-sunrise darkness, and once in full-if-early sunlight. Despite some reports to the contrary, Texans do know what time it is where they are, but they helpfully keep pretending to believe the clock.

Setting convenience aside, is there a greater good? Ah, that depends on who(m) you ask. I know! Let’s ask a bunch of anonymous people.

Summer time in Europe is the variation of standard clock time that is applied in most European countries (apart from Iceland, Belarus, Turkey and Russia) in the period between spring and autumn, during which clocks are advanced by one hour from the time observed in the rest of the year, with a view to making the most efficient use of seasonal daylight. – Wiki

If I had written about “making the most efficient use of seasonal daylight,” I might want to remain anonymous too. Efficiency is an essential virtue in some matters: meeting deadlines, producing mechanical bits, completing icky tasks, chairing meetings (but I repeat myself). How it came to be the standard for “using” daylight, seasonal or otherwise, is beyond me.

The predictable-and-yet-not-fixed flow of each day, the reliable-and-yet-not-boring cadence of the seasons: these are gifts to enjoy, not inputs whose annoying diversity we must eliminate from our lives in search of greater homogeneity. Indeed, perhaps relaxing into inherently variable daily and seasonal rhythms is a first step towards appreciating the overall flow of life, in all its waxing and waning phases.

Let us learn to go with that flow, appreciating its beauty, rather than paddle madly in search of efficiency. That, too, is a simple rule.

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10 Responses to A Simple Rule

  1. Ken from Kenora says:

    I awoke to a variety of times(on devices) this morning, due to the fact that we are in rebel Arizona, which I hope in the future will become conformist Arizona, when the rest of North America eschews the seasonal changes. Of course they also get it right, in the banjo pickin’ Province.

  2. Judith Umbach says:

    I agree with your simple rule about appreciating beauty. We change time on Sundays. For most of us, especially the retired, we don’t lose sleep. We wake up late. Just change those clocks on Sunday morning instead of Saturday night. Your body won’t notice the difference. Except people who go curling, of course.

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Judith – Your first-line summary reminds me of your audience member who used to doze through your slide presentations and arise momentarily to appreciate a flower. Not a terrible way to live.

  3. Tom Watson says:

    Rules are always simple until we have to apply them in accordance with some formula.

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Tom – 🙂 Indeed. Maybe it’s also the case that rules are easier to make than to live by.

  4. barbara carlson says:

    “making the most efficient use of seasonal daylight”

    I’m only surprised governments haven’t figured out a way to “monetize” the change.
    Efficiency is only second to money-to-be-made. But suspect companies have.

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Barbara – Yikes. I’d say, “Shh, don’t alert them” but suspect you’re right. Someone always figures out how to monetize…

      • barbara carlson says:

        Alan Bennett worries the UK government won’t find a way to monetize libraries and shut them down.

        • Isabel Gibson says:

          Barbara – A few years ago (OK, likely 20), I was stunned to learn that no-user-charge libraries — the public libraries I take for granted — were a brainchild of George Washington. Before that, libraries in the UK and elsewhere were supported by subscription fees. Now, of course, most places support them through general tax revenue.

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