(Thomas Froese Photo)
(The Hamilton Spectator – Saturday, Nov. 6, 2021)
Today is a good day to consider the light. Because it’s easy to walk around the light, or through the light, or even in the light while still being oblivious to it. A student of mine recently reminded me. We were looking at a story. This is what she said.
“The remark by Itzie in his response to Ozzie talking about God making the world, and light, made me realize how numb I’ve become to some of the miraculous workings of God. I’ve heard the stories so many times, I’ve lost the sense of wonder that they’re worthy of. I hope to get that wonder back.”
The story, a Philip Roth short story, is about living in that wonder, living free, versus being bound. It’s about light, really. It starts with Itzie and Ozzie, two young Jewish boys. They’re talking about God’s power at creation. Itzie is a bit of a dull boy. He’d equate the creation of the animals to God pitching a one-hitter. It’s pretty good, but, you know. Meh.
Ozzie, on the other hand? He’s full of wonder, especially about the light. “I mean, when you think of it, it’s really something,” Ozzie says to his buddy, with awe. It’s the light, more than anything, that really gets him.
Now if you’re like me, you woke up this morning and showered and got dressed without really thinking about the light. The light is here. It’s around. Again. Still. Yeah, yeah. We’re all a little like Itzie. I’ve been alive for about 20,000 sunrises, and how many have I really seen? Then again, you don’t look too close at the light – it can sometimes blind you – as much as you look at a tree, or a seascape, or a face that’s made visible by the light.
But if there’s a time to acknowledge that there’s something mysterious and powerful about the light, this is the day. Because tonight we change our clocks back to so-called Standard Time, otherwise known as Winter Time, otherwise known as “It Would Be Nice To Stay On One Clock for 12 Months A Year Time.”
Germany and Austria, by the way, were the first to try Daylight Time in the early 1900s, spring to fall. Much of Canada, with about 70 other nations away from the Equator, have now done the same annual dance-of-the-clocks for decades. But people don’t love the routine. And Ontario, depending on decisions in Quebec and New York, may opt for permanent Daylight Time starting next year. Albertans, you likely know, just rejected that idea. Good thing.
Sure, more light in winter evenings would be nice. But there’s a price. Russia, our cold-weather cousin-of-sorts, tried permanent Daylight Time, a short adventure in grief, in 2011. If you lived in a Russian city on the same latitude as Calgary, you’d see sunrise at 9.30 a.m. Traffic accidents with sleepy drivers, for one, went way up.
In an energy crisis, the Americans, in 1974, also briefly tried permanent Daylight Time. Congress voted 383-16 to ditch it after one year. Business and consumers with an extra hour of evening light, were happy. But Daylight Time actually took more energy. Most recently, the EU moved to scrap Daylight Time altogether, having voted for permanent Standard Time across Europe starting now in 2021. But the pandemic has stalled that.
The biggest knock against Daylight Time, a sunny but misleading term, comes from the scientists. They understand how our bodies have an intrinsic relationship with (surprise) light. Our internal clocks, our circadian rhythms, are attuned to sunlight especially at waking. Thousands of scientists support research showing that without enough morning light in particular, we get more heart disease and strokes and cancer and obesity, along with mental illness.
Which is to say that it would nice if Canada was some tropical nation along the Equator with no worry about any of this. It’s not. Regardless, when you wake tomorrow, take comfort in that extra hour of sleep. Take comfort also in knowing that, as we now fall back into Standard Time, we fall into a more natural, healthy alignment with that precious morning light.
It’s good news in this part of the world. With any luck, we might even wake up with a little more wonder.