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Glom the Winter Solstice

December 15, 2020

Fleeting days, endless nights, and piercing cold reach their epitome in just a few short days as December 21st approaches with the winter solstice. It is no wonder why those living far from the equator have historically established great celebrations as a respite from deep winter. Consider the Greek festival of Brumalia, Hindu Sankranti, Roman Saturnalia, Jewish Hanukkah, and Christian Christmas, to name a few. Lights, gifts, and feasts are perfect distractions from mid-winter bleakness.

Snowy winter scene with pine trees

Of course, to celebrate the shortest day of the year necessarily means that the day after will be slightly longer, and the day after that longer still. Therefore, acknowledgement of the solstice should be (and often is) viewed as a turning point. Instead of wassail to blind ourselves to the reality around us (cold, dark nights or otherwise), raise a glass to the growing days ahead which will eventually lead us out of mid-winter and into spring.

As the minimum of the sinusoid looms, as the lowest point approaches, let us prepare for transition. Downhill will flatten out for only the briefest of moments and then the uphill will begin. Along the acclivity, days will lengthen, and each will lighten our paths more than the previous.

Winter will march towards spring, and spring will give way to summer. This will happen regardless of our feelings about it or our opinions on the Divine clockwork that governs the natural world. As the days grow longer, we can choose to ride their inertia or to watch it pass. Our lives do not necessarily follow the impetus of the season, but we can indeed take advantage of it.

If your life feels as though it has been on the downhill for quite some time, as if life were growing darker and colder, then I encourage you especially to glom the winter solstice—that is, to take hold of the shifting season—and use it to pull yourself in a new direction. Ride the vitality of the burgeoning days and go forth into the new year with a spring in your step.

Save the Day(light)

November 1, 2020

Autumn trees with yellow leaves

Well before dawn this morning, across nearly all of the United States, Daylight Savings Time (DST) ended… or, rather, it was paused for six months. The rolling back of clocks at 2 a.m. means that we can expect this evening's sunset to be approximately one hour earlier than it was yesterday. And since we theoretically had an extra hour of sleep last night, let us use our extra brain power to ask ourselves Why do we do this?

The reductive answer is that many countries shift their time by one hour during the summer months to allow for a "longer day" during that time of year; that is, to have more daylight in the evening. Doing so hopefully allows people to better enjoy summer evenings after work and also saves energy. Wholesome as that answer might seem, it elides the complicated reality of DST.

Analogue clock

The shifting clocks that we all dread was first implemented by World War I Germany whose goal was to save energy (i.e., coal) that was needed to maintain the war. Now, a century into the future, the world is a very different place. Today, everything is powered: Many business have lights and hardware that are on 24/7, many roadways are lit, most buildings and homes have AC and/or heat, more people spend their free time engaged with a screen instead of the outdoor world. There are animated conversations about whether DST saves or costs energy, but regardless if it does or doesn't, the difference is miniscule: well below 1% in either direction.

Furthermore, shifting the time twice a year requires heroic resources. Medical records must be reconciled by hand, as do timesheets for overnight workers. International communication becomes more difficult as different countries enter and exit DST at different dates. People's routines are thwarted, and their blood pressure rises because of it. Anyone whose activities are dictated by daylight will not look to the clock anyway, and for those governed by time (not light), DST is horribly inconvenient and costly. So again, we should ask ourselves, Why do we do this?

Putting the actual issue of DST aside, why do we hinder ourselves with silliness? Why do we impinge ourselves with nonsensical practices? Forget the clocks for a minute; use those sixty seconds to put distance between yourself and the Daylight Savings Time in your life.

Over the months and years and decades, we accumulate drudgery in our lives. Of course, one can look around the home at all the unused things and realize that many of them are purposeless and would not be missed. However, we can do the same for other, less-tangible facets of life such as habits, relationships, or desires. Perhaps in your younger years, daily bouts of volleyball were your balm; is it possible, though, that now it would be more beneficial for you to decrease the intensity? Did you once desire to have an entire room in your house dedicated to video-gaming? That might be a preference of college students or bachelors, but it can get in the way for fathers of young children.

Person with Bible

There is a chance that you have a spiritual practice or lack thereof that is in need of evaluation. Singing in the choir might once have been your go-to for God, but if you no longer find the Divine in the loft, then consider changing your habit. And, of course, perhaps you have never had a spiritual practice; as you find yourself seeking meaning or something greater out of life, consider implementing one (such as listening to this fantastic podcast).

Daylight Savings Time might have once served a purpose, but now it is clutter and ought to be thrown away. DST is like your VCR (Video Cassette Recorder; remember that thing for playing movies?): It was good once, but is now quite useless. If we want to allow for fresh growth in our lives, then we need to clear out the debris. Now, if you are a legislator, then that means Daylight Savings Time, but for the rest of us, let's reevaluate the life under our purview and prepare for positive changes and better habits.

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