Time to Change the Clocks, But What is Time?

Daylight Savings Time ends Sunday.

This Sunday we bring to an end our attempt to control time as Daylight Savings Time (DST) comes to close. That’s right, we go back to the agreed upon mode of keeping track of time.

It’s that pesky time of year again where we have to make that leap into that wintery early darkness that some people love and some people hate.  

What I find fascinating and humorous about the whole drill is our notion of time and how we want to manipulate it.

We keep track of time out of necessity but how we measure it is completely arbitrary.

Philosophically, time is the measurement of movement. That movement is either intrinsic to a particular thing, like how long it takes for grapes to ripen. Or, it is extrinsic to a particular object.

We frequently use intrinsic time in our language. For example, how long will it take for a crop of grapes to grow and be ready for harvest? It would not be unusual for the vintager to say, “One [grape] season of course!”  We would most likely not hear him or her say, “five months, eighteen days, six hours, and fifteen minutes.” 

If the vintager did say it in this fashion, he or she would be using extrinsic time to describe the grape season.  Incidentally, if the vintager did use extrinsic time to grow grapes for wine, he or she would most likely be a poor wine maker.

Think of another example of how we use intrinsic time in our language. How fast is fast?

Well, two shakes of a lambs tail of course. I like that one better than a New York minute but don’t know which one is faster.

But, we measure time extrinsically using somewhat arbitrary units of measurement that relate to the rotation of the earth and its revolution around the sun, seconds, minutes, hours and so forth. It makes sense and it’s something we have all agreed upon down through the centuries.

But, no matter how we measure it, intrinsically or extrinsically, no matter how we orient ourselves to that observation, time passes.

So, when you think about it, the whole notion of DST seems somewhat delusional. The idea of saving daylight is a kind of parlor trick where we shift our temporal orientation toward daylight from the morning to the evening.

Then in the fall, we reverse that inclination thinking we have outsmarted ourselves.

Consider our temporal sentinel the that I wrote about this past spring.

Its software was written to a DST standard that changed in 2007. Now when DST begins and ends, the clock is either one hour behind in the spring for three weeks and one hour ahead for one week in the fall when our notion of observing time finally catches up with it.

You have to laugh.

So, don’t forget to set your clocks back one hour before you go to bed on Saturday night.

The actual time change takes place at 2 AM on Sunday when the clocks are set back one hour. But, if you are like me, you will set your clocks back before you go to bed on Saturday night.

I prefer doing it the night before so I can delude myself into thinking I get an extra hour of sleep.


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