Culturalism · Economic History

Lighting The Path

Every time Daylight Saving Time (DST) rolls around, you reliably hear complaints. The practice is antiquated, pointless, obnoxious, and can easily cause someone to oversleep. We might as well get rid of it, pursuing the objective of simplifying matters and eliminating all chance that someone forgets. After all, we have plenty of light.

Yet some would argue that happy glow remains under-appreciated. The bolstering principle behind DST is to conserve daylight hours during the winter, when the sun sets sooner than in warmer months. Back when people had to rely on meager lanterns or the hearth for light, they were severely limited in terms of what could be accomplished once those natural glows receded. Readers or writers had to “save it for later,” and farmers could not perform certain tasks in the dead of night. In other words, nature was a significant obstacle for everyday life.

Today we are blessed to think nothing of such inconveniences. All one must do is flip a switch, and crisp, if not as pleasing, artificial light floods the room. Productivity can continue, well past 5:30pm on a winter’s day, and long through the night.

But how many truly value or appreciate this dynamic? I routinely encounter folks who sleep 10-12 hours a day, spending the remaining time in preparation for work or consuming some byproduct of Hollyweird while immersed in almost pitch darkness, save for the television screen’s glow. These are the same organisms who bray and squeal over DST, because it is an inconvenience, albeit the sort that would seem immaterial to their waking and moving lives. Few among them even own a traditional watch or clock which must be reset, so the complaint is usually about not being mentally prepared to sleep longer.  

The species at-large, particularly those of us living in developed countries, seem to disregard the benefits of modernity, perhaps because we have so little stake in it. Wasting time, itself a complicated matter to explain, bears with it minimal consequence. Sure, you may be forced to slam the gas pedal and get into work with minutes to spare, but nothing fundamentally changes. There is no race against the harvest date for subsistence farming, or need to consolidate academic research under the sun before candles are the sole option. Just vapid floating on a pool of nondescript boredom.

Now then, go set those watches, if you have any.

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