Saturday, November 5, 2016

Fall Behind

Last March - the last time we engaged in our bizarre semi-annual ritual of moving the hour hand on the clock forward and backward - I said more or less all I had to say about that absurd custom. 

As I noted then, the idea behind "Daylight Saving Time" is not new. Benjamin Franklin famously proposed rising earlier in summer to take advantage of the extra sunlight. In effect, of course, that is what we do now with Daylight Saving Time (DST) - except we alter the clock in order to maintain the satisfying fiction that we are still rising at the same time.

The merits - and demerits - of this semi-annual ritual of "spring forward" and "fall behind" have been debated for as long as people have been doing, which goes back at least to World War I in some places. Personally, I prefer "Standard Time." It too is artificial, of course, compared with the actual local time according to the position of the sun, but it is at least a lot closer. It satisfactorily reconciles keeping time by the actual position of the sun with a modern society's need for a certain amount of standardization. "Daylight Saving Time," in contrast, arbitrarily moves us one hour ahead of actual sun time - to little real advantage. 

So I look forward to tomorrow and to it being brighter in the morning when I must start my day.

That said, I guess I have come to appreciate the ritual of these twice-yearly time changes as a season-signaling ritual in a society, which has sadly lost most of its seasonal markers and other rituals. With Global Warming, even the seasons themselves seem to disappearing. Here it is November, and we have been suffering from prolonged summer weather until just this week. "Indian Summer" is one thing. Endless summer is quite another!

It used to be that all sorts of things - from the opening and closing of school to the  kinds and colors of the clothes one wore in public - were determined by the changes in the seasons. The traditional liturgy - rooted as it was in natural seasonal rhythms - reflected that as well, especially in the Divine Office (which was even printed in four seasonal volumes) and in some of the rules regulating the attire of prelates. That too is all gone - as befits a society of climate-controlled church buildings!

In the absence of that world we have lost, all we have left is this silly semi-annual ritual of changing our clocks to remind us of the seasons and the dependence on nature which we once acknowledged but now have foresworn - with less the satisfying consequences in the form of a changing climate and an even  more artificial relationship with the world around us.

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