Monday, November 7, 2011

Carpe Diem

What time is it?

Daylight Saving Time ended and we returned to standard time Sunday morning. With the change, some of us complain how these changes play havoc with our system while others accept it with a resigned shrug of the shoulders.

This business of toying with time was first proposed by Pennsylvania’s remarkable philosopher-inventor Benjamin Franklin. It wasn’t instituted until 1916 by the Germans, those connoisseurs of precision, and then by the British as a wartime measure intended to save fuel and energy.

Daylight Saving Time wasn’t adopted in the U.S. until 1918, where Congress repealed it a year later. It was an on again, off again feature in various states until Congress made it a permanent feature of our lives in 1967. Even then, the law left instituting it to the discretion of individual states.

The practice always had its advocates, but there’s a certain fallacy to the theory it actually saves energy—if darkness comes an hour later at one end of the spectrum, then artificial light is necessary at the other.

Man is the only animal obsessed by this thing called time.

As Thomas Mann put it: “Time has no divisions to mark its passage, there is never a thunderstorm or blare of trumpets to announce the beginning of a new month or year. Even when a new century begins it is only we mortals who ring bells and fire off pistols.”

So, what time is it?

Even St. Augustine couldn’t answer that. “If no one asks me, I know what it (time) is. If I wish to explain it to him who asks me, I do not know.”

Dr. David Park, former president of the International Society for the Study of Time, confesses he has similar problems. Park theorizes there are actually two times: Time One, the invention of man, which is measured by clocks and moves constantly from past to future, and Time Two, which considers that the Eternal Now contains both the past and future. I like this latter concept, which eliminates the possibility of ever being late.

Man in his arrogance thought he had the idea of time figured out until the theorists of quantum physics illustrated the fallibility of a perception of the world based on direct experience.

What we have in the end is an invented “time” made accurate by universal agreement. It would appear the best advice of all is carpe diem (seize the moment).


  1. I like Time Two--I like the idea that past and future are combined. It seems to open up endless possibilities and show there are things greater than myself (which is always a useful thing to remember!). I find it amazing, when you think about it, that the entire world, which can't agree on anything, agrees on time. Interesting post!

  2. Our time went back the week before. They want us to go on Berlin time - get real, it aint gonna happen. Up here in the North it would be dark till 9.00 a.m. Don't want that. Time, what is it? Something I don't have enough of.

  3. Thanks for the info, John.
    I always thought this savings-time stuff was U.S. original--probably because of Franklin.

    I consider where we are now (standard time) as Sun Time and pretty much live by that all year, no matter what the clocks say. I'm fortunate I can do this; I don't have a public job (retired). :-)

  4. At some point I think it just became tradition. Once something becomes traditional, that's it, you're stuck with it.

  5. Thought-provoking post, John.

    Generally speaking, time only really matters when you realize you may be running out of it ...

  6. Very scientific and philosophical, John. Personally, I think it's a bunch of nonsense. Today, I see no reason to keep it. It does crack me up when I hear someone say, "Oh, we'll have an extra hour today." I always wonder if they really believe that...or didn't finish their sentence.

  7. I can't work out how DST is supposed to save energy when I have to switch my lights on even earlier in the evenings! Seems to me it's a 'tradition' that is a complete anachronism in today's world.

  8. Hi John,
    I didn't realise that you had time changes in the US, as we do here in the UK. There is controversy about it at the moment. (It always happens when the clocks go back in late October, and we have to put up with the short day and longer evenings of darkness.) Personally, as someone who always gets up late in the mornings, I would rather have an hour extra of light at the end of the day. But the further north you go in the UK, the less the idea appeals. The government were considering changing to permanent 'British Summer Time', but want to get the approval of the Scots first. I can't see why we don't have different time zones, as you do in the US.