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 (
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.