The subject should not cause much debate since it appears to be a technical issue. Thus, I tended to ignore it when first hearing about it. However, with the passage of a bit of time, I started noticing a general discomfort around the matter. I felt the same uneasiness.
The issue is time. Daylight Saving’s Time. The Senate unanimously passed a bill that would make Daylight Savings Time permanent. If made law, there will be no more falling back and springing forward on the calendar. We will forever prolong the day with an additional hour of artificially-perceived sunlight in the evening and languish in the morning darkness.
What made the measure even more strange is that the bill passed without opposition. In a polarized America, nothing ever passes without opposition. When Sen. Marco Rubio asked for a unanimous consent vote, he got it. The whole chamber was stunned by what they had done. The bill now proceeds to the House.
Daylight Savings Time
From a practical perspective, the time change has its benefits for certain sectors. By extending the daylight hours, the schedule saves energy—a lot of energy, much to the delight of the Greens. It helps businesses by extending daylight for entertainment, shopping, socializing, and sports after work hours.
Indeed, the practice started in the United States during the two world wars to save precious energy. After both wars, however, the government left the choice of adopting daylight savings time to states and localities. The result was a confusing patchwork of states, counties, cities and towns with different time observances. In 1966, the federal government standardized the times it would be allowed to summer, applying it across the nation while allowing states (like Arizona and Hawaii) to opt out.
Opposition to the Time Change
At first, I thought I was the only one to be uneasy about permanent daylight savings time. But I soon perceived that many didn’t like the idea. The more practical people oppose the measure for a variety of reasons.
They certainly disagree with advocates who claim time is an artificial designation, and therefore it makes little difference how we observe it. Many experts claim that advancing time interrupts natural rhythms determined by the sun. Getting up earlier in the darkness throws off the body’s clock and impacts its function. Thus, some people have digestive or anxiety problems because of the change.
In addition, northern locations with limited sun accrue fewer benefits than other states. Certain agricultural tasks are better suited to standard time schedules. One strong reason against the measure is that it forces school children to wait for the bus in the dark, which can be dangerous.
A More Metaphysical Outlook
These reasons are logical and impact the debate, but they do not explain my uneasiness.
Something more metaphysical prompts me to oppose the permanent change. I believe that the nature of creation demands a certain respect for the natural rhythms of things. Time is not relative. There should be natural markers that precisely designate the maximum extent of light and darkness, called noon and midnight, respectively. Even nature observes that there are times that favor intense activity and others of tranquil rest. Each hour and period has its significance and mood.
These periods frame the day and provide an element of order that allows us to regulate our lives. People might organize their days around five o’clock teas or early morning devotions. When we live in sync with an order that respects nature, our lives acquire calm, reflection and purpose. We construct narratives celebrated by the passage of hours and the slow march of days and nights.
Defined times become full of symbolism and meaning. Time metaphors are powerful and poetic expressions that reflect a higher-ordered reality.
When we mess with time, we lose touch with this higher reality. Making time permanently relative, even by a single hour, sends a message that we determine what time is. I am reminded of the French Revolutionaries who attempted to change the calendar to reflect their unnatural philosophies. They failed miserably.
The modern tendency is to see time inside the context of our rushed schedules without markers. Then, time becomes a blur in which we experience the double sensation of having no time to do anything and doing nothing with our time. When there are no defined periods to reflect upon experiences, life can become a mishmash of impressions, emotions and sensations.
The Notion of God’s Time
However, the most compelling reason for my uneasiness is that It reflects a concern for a superior order beyond its crude economic advantages.
Growing up, we always referred to standard solar time as God’s time. It was the way He made it. During the spring, we borrowed an hour from God so that some might benefit from it. However, we always returned it to Him in the fall before Thanksgiving. At least the clock-setting rituals reminded us that God is the owner of time.
Indeed, one of God’s first acts in Creation was establishing the parameters of time. Genesis (1:3-5) describes it in this way: “And God said: Be light made. And light was made. And God saw the light that it was good; and he divided the light from the darkness. And he called the light Day, and the darkness Night; and there was evening and morning, one day.”
We need to respect this time and its Author. And I believe it is for this reason that Daylight Savings Time always had opposition throughout its history in America. Talking with people, I was surprised by how many shared these sentiments.
Thus, when the Senate voted to make Daylight Savings Time permanent, I could not help but feel that something had been adulterated. We put ourselves at the center of things. I don’t like the idea that noon will never really be high noon again. It will be whatever we said it is. The six o’clock Angelus prayer will never be prayed at the right time, but at the time we determine. In these times of extreme disorder, we need standards of stability, not relativity.
I know it might seem like a minor issue, but sometimes the little things can take on great importance. These issues leave me unsettled. It is best not to fool with God’s time.