Everybody seems to have an opinion about Daylight Saving Time (DST), which began this past Sunday morning.
On Tuesday, the United States Senate unanimously passed by voice vote the “Sunshine Protection Act” – legislation making DST permanent beginning in 2023.
Supporters suggest it will eliminate the nuisance of the biannual time change and make for brighter afternoons in the dead of winter. Opponents says children and adults shouldn’t be going to school in the dark.
Good people can disagree on the issue, but rarely has a debated raged for so long about one-hour – three thousand six hundred seconds.
To be fair, DST has enjoyed an uneven history, a fact that probably contributes to its controversial reputation.
Dating back to World War I, the law first ordering the tradition was so unpopular it was repealed nationwide in 1919 but retained in several major U.S. cities, including New York.
Between 1942 and 1945, President Franklin Roosevelt instituted the practice year-round, calling it “War Time” – all with the intent of saving funds and conserving resources for the war by maximizing the available daylight.
Citizens old enough to remember will recall there have been numerous adjustments to the century-old practice. Over the years the start and end dates have changed, most recently in 2007 when lawmakers extended DST, moving from April to March and October to November.
The biannual imbroglio brings to mind the old story of the Greek philosopher Demosthenes who was once teaching a listless crowd about matters of life and death.
The teacher began telling of a man who rented a donkey to carry sticks over a mountain. Halfway through the hot and sunny journey, the man stopped for a break and sat in the shade of the animal. The owner of the burro joined him but soon discovered there wasn’t room for both men.
An argument ensued as the owner of the animal contended he rented out the donkey – not the donkey’s shade.
The Greek academic then walked off the stage and the once-listless crowd suddenly grew restless and agitated, yelling out and wanting to know who ultimately owned the shade.
Demosthenes returned. “You didn’t seem to care about matters of life and death,” he chided them. “But you care about the trivial like the shade of a donkey!”
I sometimes wonder if we’re guilty of the same thing, especially when it comes to the debate about daylight saving time. Here we are arguing about losing and gaining an hour – but wouldn’t we be better off pondering how we spend our time overall?
Time is a finite resource. While we all have the same amount in a day, not everyone will enjoy the same number of days in their lives.
“So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom,” wrote the Psalmist (90:12). “You do not know what tomorrow will bring,” warned James. “What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes” (4:14).
“Time is what we want most, but what we use worst,” wrote William Penn over 300 years ago – a reminder that times change but human nature doesn’t.
Instead of arguing about the hour – how about being grateful we have any time at all?
So regardless of where you are on the spectrum of the DST debate, the words of the Roman poet Horace – contemporized over 2,000 years later by the late Robin Williams in the classic, “Dead Poet’s Society” still ring true:
Photo from Shutterstock.