Historians attribute the idea of Daylight Savings Time (DST) to a New Zealand entomologist named George Vernon Hudson. Near the end of the 19th century, Hudson presented a paper to the Wellington Philosophical Society, recommending a two-hour time-shift in October, which would be reversed in March. Apparently, the entomologist wanted more daylight hours to search for insects.
The idea evoked interest but failed to get traction. Ten years later, an Englishman named William Willet lobbied to make twenty-minute time changes on four consecutive Sundays in April, then invert the process on four Sundays in September.
It was the Canadians who first tried the idea in 1908 and the Germans who went wholesale for the idea in 1916. The German rationale for the change was that longer daylight hours would mean less artificial lighting, thereby saving fuel that could be used by the military in the First World War. The idea soon caught on in England and France.
The U.S. was late to the game. Though the nation tried it briefly in 1918, they jumped off the bandwagon in 1919, and did not get back on until President Lyndon Johnson signed the Uniform Time Act in 1966. But in 1967, the people of Arizona and Michigan rebelled, and returned to standard time and Indiana didn’t get on board as a state until 2006.
Does DST really help us? The initial rationale for the change – that the country would save energy – turned out to be misleading. While DST slightly decreases the use of energy for lighting, it also increases the use of energy for heating and cooling.
Personal energy is also negatively affected by DST, which makes it easier for people to stay up later but does nothing to delay start times at work the next day. That means many of us get less sleep – and this in a nation where the CDC says almost one out of four people don’t sleep enough.
It’s nice to have an extra daylight hour in the evening to enjoy the outdoors, but is the trade-off worth it? Perhaps we should stop messing with time. We really aren’t very good at it. In fact, we’re not good at it at all. We can’t save daylight hours. We can only change our clocks to create the illusion that daylight begins later and ends later. Only God can actually save time.
The philosopher Peter Kreeft argues that God is not bound by time. “He can act forward, backward, and sideways” in time. This is because God is eternal and all time is constantly present to him. “From eternity,” Kreeft writes, “time is manipulable: expandable, compressible, reversible, divisible.”
This seems to fit the outlook of great saints and biblical authors. St. Peter writes, “With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day.” Kreeft comments: God “plays time like an accordion, expanding and contracting it at will…As an author can move backward or forward in a story, God can move in time.”
If St. Peter is right, God’s relationship to time has significant implications for us. As Kreeft points out, God can answer prayers before (from our limited time-perspective) we ask and, strangely, after we are dead.
Because of God’s relationship to time, our uncertainties about the future, even our fears and worst-case scenarios, are of less consequence than we realize. The God who is committed to us is already there, in our future, even at the occasion of our death. He knows we will be alright and knows what he will (again, from our perspective, not his) do. Our fears do not faze him.
This also means, as Professor Kreeft points out, that our present is well in hand – God’s hand. Apart from God, time is to us a “wild beast or a slave driver.” But when we give our time to God, it is transformed and tamed. Where time touches eternity, that is, where God touches time, it becomes malleable or, as Kreeft vividly describes it, it becomes “silly putty” in his hands.
This is why the biblical poet breathed a sigh of relief when he realized, in his words: “My times are in your hands.” That was right where he wanted them to be.
First Published by Gatehouse Media