got up with the sun (as ’tis called)

by John Holbo on October 31, 2005

My last post was about E.S. Turner‘s Roads to Ruin, the Shocking History of Social Reform. One of the chapters is about daylight savings, a timely topic, so I’ll make it a two-part series. Here are a few choice samples of arguments against the pernicious practice.

From Charles Lamb:

Not but there are pretty sun risings, as we are told, and such-like gawds, abroad in the world, in summer time especially … which a gentleman may see, as they say, only for getting up. But, having been tempted once or twice in earlier life, to assist at these ceremonies, we cofess our curiosity abated. We are no longer ambitious of being the sun’s courtiers, to attend at his morning levees. We hold the good hours of the dawn too sacred to waste them upon such observances; which have in them, besides, something Pagan and Persic. To say truth, we never anticipated our usual hour, or got up with the sun (as ’tis called) to go a journey, or upon a foolish whole day’s pleasuring, but we suffered for it all the long hours after in listlessness and heachaches; Nature herself sufficiently declared her sense of our presumption in aspriing to regulate our frail waking courses by the measures of the celestial and sleepless traveller … It is flattering to get the start of a lazy world; to conquer death by proxy in his mage. But the seeds of sleep and mortality are in us; and we pay usually in strange qualms, before night falls, the penalty of the unnatural inversion.

Sir Herbert Stephen patiently explains the sheer preposterousness of the very notion of renaming 1 o’clock ’12 o’clock’:

Suppose that the Legislature throught it desirable most men in England should wear white hats, and accordingly enacted that every hat possessing the qualities which we now signify by the word black should be, and be deemed to be, and be called white. The result would be that we should mostly wear the same sort of hats as at present and that for official purposes the considerable majority of our hats would be statutorily white and properly and lawfully called white, while the minority would be lawfully called black, being what we now describe as white.

Charles Darwin’s son George felt much the same:

When I was a little boy and played at being a soldier, I was mortified at not being six feet in height and determined that the matter should be rectified. So I marked my height carefully on the playroom wall and divided it into a scale of six feet and the feet into inches. Thenceforward, I was six feet tall and my brother was five feet ten inches and the arrangement was highly satisfactory. If, on hearing this, my father had said: ‘This pleases the boys so much that for the future everyone in the house shall call eight inches a foot,’ confusion would inevitably have ensued in the household.

Then there is Lord Balfour of Burleigh who worries about the twins, one born 10 minutes before 1 AM, whose little brother, born 10 minutes later, will end up 50 minutes his senior, with who knows what difficulties having to do with properties and titles down the line.

And many, many other objections.



nitpicker 10.31.05 at 10:00 am

Then there is Lord Balfour of Burleigh who worries about the twins, one born 10 minutes before 1 AM, whose little brother, born 10 minutes later, will end up 50 minutes his senior, with who knows what difficulties having to do with properties and titles down the line.

Surely only 40 minutes his senior…


nitpicker 10.31.05 at 10:02 am

Never mind, I’m an idiot.


daylight 10.31.05 at 10:49 am

My Indiana hometown is in a different time zone than the rest of the state; a handful of counties were permitted to *vote* what time it should be. So it’s usually an hour behind. Add daylight savings and you can never tell, when you are in Evansville, what time it is an hour up the road.

Years later I lived in Mexico. Since it gets light and dark at the same time more or less all year round there were protesters outside the Palacio Municipal on clocks-back day; the only sense in adhering to savings time lay in conforming to the US and why should people do that?

Now I live in southwest England where it’s commonly complained that savings time exists only for the benefit of the Scottish, and that road accidents are more common in England as a result of it.

I’m haunted.


brooksfoe 10.31.05 at 11:16 am

Any of the advantages of daylight savings time could as easily be obtained by resolving that henceforth, commencing whatever day in April it is that daylight savings time is usually ordained to kick in (one would think that after a few dozen years on the planet such things would start to sink in, but somehow they don’t), all government offices, banks, shoe stores, dens of iniquity, schools, gyms, electronic appliance emporia and so forth will open for business at 8 am rather than 9, or in any case an hour earlier than their normal opening hours; that restaurants will close at 11 pm rather than midnight, bars at 1 am rather than 2, etc.; and that all television and radio programming will shift to air an hour earlier than it does in winter. In October, the schedules of all such institutions would resume their winter hours. Any institution would of course be free to opt out of the schedule shift, and citizens might keep track of which establishments were running on which business hours by keeping business cards with the various establishments’ opening hours handy at all times.

That would be so much simpler and less confusing than just shifting the national clocks forward and back twice a year.


John Emerson 10.31.05 at 12:18 pm

Anyone confused by daylight saving time is asily confused and should be put in custody. It’s been around for most of my life.

We should shed a tear for the thousands of Standard Time Old Believers who died at the hands of the jackbooted minions of the parasitical State, of course. But let’s not pretend that DST is hard to understand.


Adam Kotsko 10.31.05 at 12:24 pm

I think we should be on Daylight Savings all year round. Shifting back to normal time for the winter is terrible, because it gets dark radically earlier all of a sudden. We have the power to defy nature and set our clocks via whichever arbitrary standards we choose — why not call 1 o’clock noon, when the use of timezones means that for the vast majority of locations, clock noon will not equal “real” noon in any case?


Jeremy Osner 10.31.05 at 12:47 pm

I think we should be on Daylight Savings all year round.

Watch it, you’re venturing into dangerous territory: read DST Nocturne and tremble at what you would unleash.

In the end it did no good.
The world grew darker, and darker, and darker still.


luci phyrr 10.31.05 at 12:58 pm

Why don’t we just slow down the spinning of the earth? We could have longer daylight hours *and* more hours for sleep at night.

We could tie it into the Global Fight Against Terrorism, so the think tanks and newspapers will all get on board. All the countries we don’t like are nearer to the equator, so longer days might make them too lethargic for mischief-making. A project to “Make Arabs Uncomfortable” would surely be cheaper than invading the entire Middle East, and if it doesn’t work, at least we gave it a chance before killing them all.

We all know the UN’s too ineffective and compromised to do anything about this…


soubzriquet 10.31.05 at 1:07 pm

John, (re #5):

sure, it is easy to understand. It just isn’t a particularly good idea, and it is usually sold on false premises.

I do hear, however, that the adjusted schedule for DST that the US is implementing is expected to be worth about 500 million to the golf and barbeque industries alone….so at least somebody will be happy with it.


e-tat 10.31.05 at 1:34 pm

Anyone confused by daylight saving time is asily confused

Yes, and on that count, most people exist in a state of confusion, but without realising it. We deceive ourselves into thinking that some way of behaving is natural or right, and forget that it has implications. Extending the day through artificial means is one instance, having a clock that goes from 1 to 12 is another, having weekdays and weekends is another. Each of these disrupts a more sensible pattern of behaving, but we tend to forget that because we’re so distracted by the intricacies of having to keep track. Get away from it for a week or two and see how ridiculous it all seems upon your return.


Kip Manley 10.31.05 at 1:55 pm

Christ, no. Don’t you see? Going to DST all the time would rid us of that most delicious feeling on the Monday after, when we wake up an hour earlier than we have to and then remember we forgot to re-set our alarm clocks.

Don’t you understand that this pernicious DST-always movement is just the Man trying to steal that precious hour away from you and never give it back? “Spring forward”? Gah!


pdf23ds 10.31.05 at 1:55 pm

e-tat, what’s a more sensible thing to replace weekends with? Surely you don’t advocate offices keeping hours every day of the week?


Jeremy Osner 10.31.05 at 2:34 pm

This whole constructed reality thing, where we give names to objects — delineate self from other and other from other — is kind of pernicious really. Better we should float infantile in the sea of continuous reality. As a governement policy!


Adam Kotsko 10.31.05 at 3:17 pm

Yes, I agree — no more language! All the signs are just arbitrary anyway, predicated on mutual exclusion! Write your congressperson!


C.J.Colucci 10.31.05 at 5:14 pm

Daylight Savings Time is a terrible mistake. All the extra sunlight will cause further fading and deterioration of fabrics.


Matt McIrvin 11.01.05 at 2:06 am

I think we should live on Martian time like the people who run the Mars rovers.

(Actually, are they still living on Martian time? Maybe not, since it’s been two years now and the rovers just won’t die; that would tend to reduce one’s sense of urgency.)


theorajones 11.02.05 at 7:20 pm

While in the abstract, I agree with all of the above, the extra hour of sleep this weekend was so amazing and precious that I’m trying to figure out how to “fall back” every weekend.

Maybe people will be willing to settle for a rotating calendar totally unrelated to the sun if it means an extra hour every weekend?

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