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douglas_adamsThe fact that we live at the bottom of a deep gravity well, on the surface of a gas-covered planet going around a nuclear fireball 90 million miles away and think this to be normal is some indication of how skewed our perspective tends to be.


You’ve probably seen the petitions going around to end the Daylight Savings Time Hokey Pokey we do every year. I’ve always liked it myself. It shakes me up twice a year, makes me say things to the kids like, “Ooh, remember how dark it was at this time yesterday?” It’s nicely weird.

But it hit me this morning that I’ve got it all wrong. I really ought to hate it.

So now I do.

I’ve always loved things that make me feel like I’m on a planet and hated things that paper over that astonishing fact. Most of the time it’s easy to forget our actual situation, to lapse into the illusion of normalcy Douglas Adams talked about. But sometimes I manage to feel the real deal for a minute.

Years ago, in our house in Minnesota, I could lie in bed at a particular time of night, look out the window at a gable that jutted into the night sky, hold very still, and watch the moon ever so slowly break into view from behind it. I could see the Earth turn.

Thierry Cohen’s spectacular photographic series “Darkened Cities” is a sad reminder of the planetary perspective we’ve lost because of city lights.

(I won’t copy the copyrighted images, but if you haven’t seen them, oh my gourd, GO.)

When I lived in LA, I was properly terrified of earthquakes. But after each decently big one, I always got a little twinge of schadenfreude watching that cocky city grind to a halt for a few hours: Oh riiight, we live in smooshable bodies in breakable buildings built on a jittery crack in the surface of a whirling ball! Scary, but nice in its way.

So here’s the deal with the time change. If we left the clocks alone, we’d feel the shrinking of the day in the fall and the expanding in the spring more than we do. Without those two artificial twitches interrupting the big planetary respiration — without the Wait, wut? of the downshift and upshift — we’d feel the annual breathing of night and day gradually, naturally. Mornings would be too dark for too long in winter, and too light too early in summer, and we’d have to deal with it. In the process, we’d get a better feeling for the shape of the year, and we’d be in a little bit less denial about what we’re sitting on. Maybe.

Anyway, I’m for it.

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Dale McGowan is chief content officer of OnlySky, author of Parenting Beyond Belief, Raising Freethinkers, and Atheism for Dummies, and founder of Foundation Beyond Belief (now GO Humanity). He holds a...

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