Time Lost, Time Gained
The savings we can't seem to deplete
This is an entry in the Saturday series of Timeless & Timely called “Off the Clock, where we focus on words, a quirk of history or literature, or something just plain fun. Make sure you don’t miss a single issue.
“Those who make the worst use of their time are the first to complain of its brevity.” — Jean de la Bruyère, 1688
The advent of Daylight Saving Time is usually something that sticks in my mind just for a weekend at most.
But over the past week, I’ve heard more about it than usual — as have you, I’ll wager.
In front of the United States Congress is a proposal to make Daylight Saving Time permanent, giving news organizations everywhere a gift of time: suddenly they had a story to fill the airwaves throughout the week.
And yes, half of them called it Daylight “Savings” Time. The horror.
As soon as I read the announcement, though, I wondered about the wisdom of choosing to keep the clocks stuck permanently ahead one hour. It seems to me that we should default to Standard Time, not Saving Time.
First of all, because it’s standard. It’s right there in the name!
And sleep experts agree, but for different reasons. In The Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, they pointed out that there is a cognitive and physical health risks when we engage in this time travel we endure twice a year when we change the clocks.
More than just affecting our circadian rhythms, these experts suggested that another hour of dark toward the beginning of the day is inherently more dangerous, particularly with schoolchildren out and about while commuters make their way to work.
Nothing has been finalized, so we’ll see where the bill finally lands when the clock runs out.
Making the Most of Our Time
You may have heard the phrase “the days are long but the years are short” regarding the cruel irony of parenting.
It reminded me of one of the most touching letters I’ve read over the last year on Letters of Note, a newsletter to which I subscribe.
Kurt Vonnegut, who had three children with his wife and who took responsibility for his sister’s three sons after she and her husband died within two days of each other, separated from his wife in 1971.
His youngest daughter Nan was 17 at the time, and, writer that he was, he wrote her letters. This one is heartfelt, frank, and filled with advice — advice coming from a father but not necessarily paternal in tone, and filled with wisdom:
“You are dismayed at having lost a year, maybe, because the school fell apart. Well—I feel as though I’ve lost the years since Slaughterhouse-Five was published, but that’s malarky. Those years weren’t lost. They simply weren’t the way I’d planned them. Neither was the year in which Jim had to stay motionless in bed while he got over TB. Neither was the year in which Mark went crazy, then put himself together again. Those years were adventures. Planned years are not.”
That’s a stark reminder for any of us; particularly on the heels of the lost years of a pandemic.
Time doesn’t always unfold the way we plan it. Nevertheless, we have an opportunity to make our own adventures with the time we have.
May we use it wisely, whether it’s standard or saved.
Thanks, and I’ll see you on the internet.