EPT (Eastern Pretend Time)

So begins what is perhaps the toughest week of the year for me. The annual screwing up of the clocks began yesterday, and if history is any teacher, it will take me a week or so to regain my equilibrium. Until then, I pay the price. And I’m not the only one: my early-morning-bird daughter Rebecca did notRebecca, wide awake get out of bed until 9:00 (pretend time) this morning, having become obviously discombobulated over the weekend (and not being able to get to sleep until after 10:00 PM last night). In either a stroke of good luck or of insightful planning, her school had no session today, in order to hold a staff development day, so she was able to sleep in.

There has always been something inherently absurd in this collective pretending that it is a different time than it actually is, but the practice took on Markeyesque inanity a few years ago, when pretend time was extended in duration in the U.S. – not long, I might add, after parts of the rest of the world adopted the silliness. The cost in IT conformance of this clever boondoggle was ridiculous – and many systems still don’t work right for a few weeks. But, now the beginning of this formerly springtime ritual has been pushed back into the last couple weeks of winter – and hence into Lent.

I guess it was four years ago when I decided to make a Lenten commitment to attending Mass daily. My parish was offering an early-morning Mass at 6:30 AM for the season during the work week, and it seemed like a good discipline. I was completely exhausted by the end of Lent, but I soon missed daily Mass so much that I figured out a more sustainable means of participating regularly, and have gratefully done so ever since. But I’d also volunteered to read one morning each week during that 2006 Lenten season, and now I continue to be asked each year to read, though I otherwise rarely attend the early Mass now. I’m reading on Thursdays this year. So when Thursday morning comes around this week, at 6:30 Pretend Time (5:30 AM, in reality), I will ascend the two short steps toward the altar, and approach the ambo to proclaim the Word… if I can see straight. I’ll need toothpicks to keep my eyelids open on my homeward commute, twelve hours or so later.

I can understand why lots of people like to get up earlier in the summertime to get their work done early, so they can relax in the late daylight. But why do we need to collectively agree to pretend it’s actually later than it really is when we do so? And why do we need the government essentially forcing it on us – especially in the winter (as if it really matters what time of year it is when the government decides that it’s not what time of day it is).

I understand that any attempt to fit time into a taxonomy is an exercise in practicality that necessarily involves some level of hubris, but the traditional division of the day – even including the timezone concept – reflects a pragmatism of cooperation, a kind of common framework or language that allows people to understand each other. Daylight Saving Time, by contrast, reflects not a pragmatism of cooperation, but a manipulative capitalization on the dependence such cooperation has created across society. It’s an abuse of the taxonomy of time. I really think people can work out their own schedules – whether individually or in groups – without Congress declaring that Noontime will henceforth and until further notice occur at precisely one hour past Noon.