Day 83: Demonstrate the arbitrariness of human timekeeping.

The Book wants me to do this by calling a friend “across an ocean” and disturbing their sleep. There are, however, two problems with this—

—I always find a way to have problems with the tasks, I know, but that’s what makes this fun, so just deal with it—

—the first problem being that I have no friends across any oceans, and the second being that I don’t like to talk on the phone. Fortunately, there’s another way for me to “demonstrate the arbitrariness of human timekeeping” – Daylight Saving Time, which started while it was still winter this year.

I hate Daylight Saving Time. I hate it with the fire of a thousand suns. I hate it with a hatred that precedes reason, though I think there are valid reasons to dislike – though probably not to hate – DST.

I used to decry DST precisely for its arbitrariness, for the casual way in which we decide – or go along with the decision – to ignore solar time and do our own thing. I don’t mind the arbitrariness so much anymore, because our globalized world requires a bit of arbitrariness: clock noon and solar noon are only the same time in a narrow band of longitude in an given time zone, and there’s not really a workable way around that.

The primary reason I hate DST these days is that it’s a completely ineffective solution for the problems it purports to address. It’s like putting a band-aid on some dude’s toe when his wife is having a heart attack, and declaring the problem solved.

More hours of daylight leisure time is good, sure: more hours of leisure time, period, is even better. I have only my own experience and anecdotal evidence to support this, but I think that productivity in a lot of industries would go up if the number of hours an individual employee worked went down. I have a feeling that the average cubicle-dweller gets three hours of real work done in a given eight-hour day – less if the day is full of meetings – but that the same worker might get five hours of real work done in a five-hour day.

Such a solution, though, would require radical and fundamental changes to the values that drive our economy, and the first would be removing the economy from its primacy of place in our society: the pursuit of wealth is, I think, far more important to most people than life, liberty, and happiness – or, at least, we are constantly told that we ought to value material accumulation above all else, because material accumulation is what makes everything else (life, love, liberty, happiness) possible.

Another really important change would involve making it possible for more people to work at what they love, because that sort of work isn’t really work, in the sweaty-bitter-toil-and-anguish sort of way: it’s still labor, but a good and joyful sort of labor, even when its difficult. I work much more than 40 hours a week – but very little of it is unpleasant, and most of it is what I would do if I were independently wealthy (that is, read and write all the time).

More vacation time would be good, too: at most places, you’re lucky to get two weeks, and many people are forced to use that time during holidays. When I worked at Starbucks, which is fairly progressive for an American corporation, I had to use half my annually-allotted vacation time if I wanted more than a day off at Christmas (and I usually had to make the request six months in advance, because everyone wants time off at Christmas, and nobody gets any, because everybody else wants to go to fucking Starbucks or Wal-Mart or wherever on their holidays, &c &c – you can probably finish the rant on your own, and if you can’t, maybe you should try working a retail job for a few months).

It may seem that I’ve gotten a little off-track, but really I haven’t. We nonchalantly decide that, for nearly eight months of the year, noon should happen at 11 a.m. – and this nonchalance about time-keeping reveals a much deeper flaw in our attitudes toward time-spending. We – as a society, notwithstanding individual exceptions – we believe that our lives ought to be work and toil and accumulation, but never enjoyment. A moderate amount of work is not just necessary, but its own sort of good; but in work, as in so many things, we have such trouble with moderation.

My advice? Work less, live more, and don’t worry about having a glass of wine at 11 a.m., especially when the clock tells you it’s actually noon.

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