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Each Monday, Tommy Tomlinson delivers thoughtful commentary on an important topic in the news. Through these perspectives, he seeks to find common ground that leads to deeper understanding of complex issues and that helps people relate to what others are feeling, even if they don’t agree.

Arguing over daylight saving time is not exactly time well spent

Renel Wackett

Every year, there are a few true signs of March. The camellias start to bloom. Basketball fans get ready for the NCAA tournaments. And people whine like hungry puppies about daylight saving time.

I will give an exemption here to the parents of young children. One hour of disruption in a toddler’s schedule can ruin the day for everybody in the house, up to and including the goldfish. Parents in the middle of a three-year stretch of sleep deprivation have a free pass to complain about anything.

But for the rest of us, all this angst about moving the clock a single hour feels a little … delicate. I bet there’s a pretty big crossover between people who gripe about daylight saving time and people who gripe about their favorite TV shows coming out one episode at a time instead of all at once.

"It’s not like moving the clock around is altering some sacred temple of time. The truth is that nature doesn’t care what time we think it is."

Well, the government is here to help.
The U.S. Senate passed a bill last week
to make daylight saving
time permanent, which means we wouldn’t “fall back” an hour like we normally do every November. That would mean more evening light all year long.

That would also mean less morning light all year long. A lot of sleep scientists say going to permanent daylight saving is exactly the wrong move. The American Academy of Sleep Scientists says we should go to permanent standard time because earlier light in the mornings and earlier dark in the evenings is a better match to the body’s natural rhythms.

How you feel about it probably depends on what kind of clock you live with — whether you’re on farmers’ hours or trying to make it to class or 9-to-5ing it or working the graveyard shift.

But it’s not like moving the clock around is altering some sacred temple of time. The truth is that nature doesn’t care what time we think it is.

The earth spins on its axis with no regard to what our clocks say. It makes its stately orbit around the sun with no attention to the calendar. Human beings carved time into chunks for our purposes — to make life more manageable and to keep better track of our lives. But in so many of the most important times of our lives, clocks don’t matter.

If you’ve been in a hospital waiting room while somebody you love goes through surgery, you know that minutes might as well be years. If you’ve lingered after dinner with your favorite friends, you know hours pass in seconds.

Most of us have built our lives in such a way that it makes a difference whether it’s 8 in the morning or 7 or 9. And by doing that we’ve untethered ourselves from life’s real rhythms — the ones built not just on sunrise and sunset but experiences and memories.

We’re so dependent on the clock as a measure of our lives that daylight saving time — or the lack of it — really does make a difference. But the life we should aspire to is the one where we never know what time it is.

Tommy Tomlinson’s On My Mind column runs Mondays on WFAE and WFAE.org. It represents his opinion, not the opinion of WFAE. You can respond to this column in the comments section below. You can also email Tommy at ttomlinson@wfae.org.

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Tommy Tomlinson has hosted the podcast SouthBound for WFAE since 2017. He also does a commentary, On My Mind, which airs every Monday.