Time and Space
The Hindu god Shiva (who has nothing whatsoever to do with sitting shiva) is usually depicted as one of the members of the great Triad, one of the three projections of the Supreme Reality, each with a specific cosmic function. Brahmā is the Creator, Vishnu is the Maintainer or Preserver, and Shiva is the Destroyer or Transformer, the dissolution that precedes re-creation. In Shaivism, the oldest of the four sects of Hinduism, Shiva is the supreme Being: creator, preserver, destroyer, revealer, and concealer of everything that exists.
I first encountered Shiva in Joseph Campbell and the Power of Myth, the series of interviews with Bill Moyers on PBS in 1988. He did a marvelous job of explicating the iconic image of Shiva Nataraja (Shiva, Lord of the Dance), right. Shiva does the cosmic Dance of Bliss inside a ring of fire—the world of illusion—to destroy a weary universe and make preparations for Brahma to create everything anew.
He has four arms and two legs, and every aspect of his pose is a carefully constructed symbol. Dr. Richard Stromer explains it beautifully:
The contents of the upper two of Nataraja’s outstretched hands are meant to demonstrate the eternal balance between the forces of creation and those of destruction. In the upper right hand, Shiva holds the sacred damaru, a drum in the shape of an hourglass, with which Shiva beats out the rhythm of his dance and with it the ceaseless creation of the universe and all of its infinite forms. This drum, writes Joseph Campbell, “is the drum of time, the tick of time which shuts out the knowledge of eternity,” as a result of which “we are enclosed in time.” Moreover, it is said to signify the primordial sound from which all things emanate, connoting in Heinrich Zimmer’s words “Sound, the vehicle of speech, the conveyer of revelation, tradition, incantation, magic, and divine truth.” Opposed to this force of creation as represented by the drum is the flame of extinction held in Shiva’s upper right hand. That flame symbolizes all of Shiva’s awesome powers of destruction, the terrible but necessary burning away of all things existing in time and space, the fire which, Campbell writes, “burns away the veil of time and opens our minds to eternity.” Read more
An impoverished surfer has drawn up a new theory of the universe, seen by some as the Holy Grail of physics, which has received rave reviews from scientists.
by Roger Highfield, Science Editor
The Daily Telegraph (UK)
Garrett Lisi, 39, has a doctorate but no university affiliation and spends most of the year surfing in Hawaii, where he has also been a hiking guide and bridge builder (when he slept in a jungle yurt).
In winter, he heads to the mountains near Lake Tahoe, Nevada, where he snowboards. “Being poor sucks,” Lisi says. “It’s hard to figure out the secrets of the universe when you’re trying to figure out where you and your girlfriend are going to sleep next month.”
The E8 pattern (click to enlarge), Garrett Lisi surfing (middle), and out of the water (right)
Despite this unusual career path, his proposal is remarkable because, by the arcane standards of particle physics, it does not require highly complex mathematics. Read more
A couple of weeks ago, Adamus told me he had gotten a dog at the pound, a Lab mix named Dusty. He said I should definitely meet her. Cool with me, I adore dogs.
Yesterday he brought her over. I gasped when she walked through the front door. It was my Goldie (that’s her in the picture).
Yes, my dog who died last year.
This is Goldie in a new body. Slightly smaller, but very similar build. Identical face and smile. Darker coat. Same tail.
OK, I can cope with outward similarities and chalk it up to the breed, though Lab-Whippet mixes are surely not too common.
But when she got in, she immediately jumped up and started kissing me insistently on the mouth. Then she stopped and rolled at my feet, the way Goldie did. Then, when I was sitting down, she stood and put her paws on my shoulders and kept staring into my eyes, then nuzzled me and kissed me more. As if to say, “You remember me, don’t you?” Read more
Not to mention the question of which way it goes. . . .
by Tim Folger, Discover Magazine
No one keeps track of time better than Ferenc Krausz. In his lab at the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics in Garching, Germany, he has clocked the shortest time intervals ever observed. Krausz uses ultraviolet laser pulses to track the absurdly brief quantum leaps of electrons within atoms. The events he probes last for about 100 attoseconds, or 100 quintillionths of a second. For a little perspective, 100 attoseconds is to one second as a second is to 300 million years.
But even Krausz works far from the frontier of time. There is a temporal realm called the Planck scale, where even attoseconds drag by like eons. It marks the edge of known physics, a region where distances and intervals are so short that the very concepts of time and space start to break down. Planck time—the smallest unit of time that has any physical meaning—is 10-43 second, less than a trillionth of a trillionth of an attosecond. Beyond that? Tempus incognito. At least for now.
Efforts to understand time below the Planck scale have led to an exceedingly strange juncture in physics. The problem, in brief, is that time may not exist at the most fundamental level of physical reality. If so, then what is time? And why is it so obviously and tyrannically omnipresent in our own experience? “The meaning of time has become terribly problematic in contemporary physics,” says Simon Saunders, a philosopher of physics at the University of Oxford. “The situation is so uncomfortable that by far the best thing to do is declare oneself an agnostic.” Read more
In an earlier post about a fascinating (and more than a little surreal) discussion about quantum physics in an online humor and gossip forum, I mentioned that the thread had concluded.
Well, it keeps getting new posts periodically, and some of the comments have been fascinating, not to mention hysterically funny:
R37: “This is known as reality shifting. It happens all the time. Who hasn’t ‘lost’ something only to find it’s reappeared someplace you know you didn’t put it? It’s happened to me and lots of people I know and if it hasn’t happened to you yet, it probably will!”
Roger: “Hello!!! Socks in the dryer anyone? I’m tempted to throw myself in there and see where I wind up. Somewhere I hope with lots of dimmer switches.”
R40: “What I find is that when I’m looking for something, the thing I’m looking for anticipates where I’m going to look next and, if that’s where it is, it moves itself. It keeps doing this until it gets bored and lets me find it.
“Also, anyone else have this experience: you’re in some room (typically one without windows, such as a basement, and it’s filled with stuff. You turn out the light and everything disappears! Where does it go? I figure probably to another dimension. In any case, it can’t be far because you turn the light back on and everything reappears, seemingly instantaneously. It’s weird.
“Don’t get me started about linear time! I was so tired last night, I fell asleep watching television. Several hours disappeared and suddenly was I thrust into the morning.
“People who live in reality are just boring.” Read more
Ever since Alfred Watkins announced his discovery of a network of ancient alignments criss-crossing the British countryside, the history of leys has been less of an old straight track and more of a long and winding road, one that has taken detours into everything from ufology to dowsing. Veteran ley hunter Paul Devereux sets out to map this remarkable journey and to see where it has taken us today.
by Paul Devereux, for The Fortean Times
Following Alfred Watkins’s famous vision of straight paths crossing the landscape, the concept of “leys” has evolved over several decades, but it has become increasingly obvious to research-minded ley students that there never were such features as “leys,” let alone “leylines.” At best, these were convenient labels to cover a multitude of both actual and imaginary alignments from many different eras and cultures. This was because most enthusiasts were projecting their own ideas onto the past in various ways. But the handful of research-minded ley hunters cared about actual archæology, and they followed where the mythical leys led—a journey in which they have made some unexpected findings, proving William Blake’s dictum that if the fool persists in his folly he will eventually become wise. These vary from discovering that culturally contrived altered mind-states in past societies caused markings to be left on the land to unravelling the meaning of a passage in a Shakespeare play that has revealed the vestiges of a spiritual geography in Old Europe.
Because the realisation that New World features like the Nazca lines of Peru and other pre-Columbian land markings throughout the Americas seem to be associated with entranced mind states (typically triggered by the ritual use of plant or fungal hallucinogens) has been sufficiently aired previously, we need spend little space on them here—save to note that in the late 1980s, when the present writer introduced the term “shamanic landscapes” to describe such ground markings, few people were aware of the scale of mind-altering drug usage in ancient America and so tended to dismiss the idea at the time as being over-fanciful. Subsequently, though, the role of altered mind-states in explaining certain imagery in prehistoric rock art has become more widely accepted. The land markings share a similar source to these rock art images, so features like the Nazca lines are not to be misunderstood as landing strips for extraterrestrial spacecraft but as the markings of a culture encountering inner space. The human spirit has left its signature on the planet in some surprising ways.
Less well known by academics and folklorists, let alone anyone else, is the fact that the leys led researchers to revelations regarding largely ignored features in the Old World. Read more
This morning, groggy and bleary-eyed, I stumbled out of bed and headed for the computer, as I do every morning (I am such a creature of habit!), and immediately turn to my favorite time-waster, Datalounge.
Billing itself as “10 Years of Gay Gossip, Politics, and Pointless Bitchery,” Datalounge (“the DL”) is a surprisingly international forum where anonymous strangers can post on wildly divergent topics, most of them centering around who is gay in Hollywood, or outrageous incidents in the press like the woman with the toddler at Reagan National Airport who either went ballistic when told she couldn’t bring her toddler’s sippy cup onto the plane, or who was unreasonably hassled by out-of-control TSA agents, depending on your perspective.
There are endless arguments, some of which are are surprisingly cogent; tremendous compassion when someone’s dog or parent dies; tremendous cattiness and even unwarranted cruelty; and humor. It’s really the humor that draws me.
For example, the Sippy Cup incident that has been in the headlines this week. Most of the DL posters were shocked at the woman’s over-the-top reaction, at a time when much of the Internet was saying it was tantamount to an attack by the TSA agent. Read more
You may have gathered by now that were I to start my college education all over again, I’d study quantum physics. Of all the hard sciences, physics comes closest to the shamanic worldview—that, for example, all things are made of energy moving at different rates, or that light is the prime “substance” of the universe.
And, of course, there is my favorite quote in the world.
I’ve recently run across a marvelous book called Imagining the Tenth Dimension: A New Way of Thinking about Time, Space, and String Theory by Rob Bryanton. Not only does it deal with quantum indeterminacy, it’s also a mindbending book that grapples with the idea of the soul, the function of memory, and the notion of free will.
The Flash version of the book’s website (www.tenthdimension.com) provides an interactive set of animations with narration and sound effects which explain the basic concepts from chapter one of the book. The media-rich nature of these animations is not recommended for viewing with a dialup connection because of long load times. Below is a transcript of the narration from those animations, but if you have a high-speed connection, it’s well worth the visit, and makes these decidedly complex concepts much clearer.
Imagining the Ten Dimensions
In string theory, physicists tell us that the subatomic particles that make up our universe are created within ten spatial dimensions (plus an eleventh dimension of “time”) by the vibrations of exquisitely small “superstrings.” The average person has barely gotten used to the idea of there being four dimensions: how can we possibly imagine the tenth?
0. A point (no dimension)
We start with a point. Like the “point” we know from geometry, it has no size, no dimension. It’s just an imaginary idea that indicates a position in a system.
1. The first dimension—a Line
A second point, then, can be used to indicate a different position, but it, too, is of indeterminate size. To create the first dimension, all we need is a line joining any two points. A first dimensional object has length only, no width or depth.
2. The Second Dimension—a Split
If we now take our first dimensional line and draw a second line crossing the first, we’ve entered the second dimension. The object we’re representing now has a length and a width, but no depth. To help us with imagining the higher dimensions, we’re going to represent our second dimensional object as being created using a second line which branches off from the first.
Now, let’s imagine a race of two-dimensional creatures called “Flatlanders.” What would it be like to be a Flatlander living in their two-dimensional world? A two-dimensional creature would have only length and width, as if they were the royalty on an impossibly flat playing card. Picture this: a Flatlander couldn’t possibly have a digestive tract, because the pipe from their mouth to their bottom would divide them into two pieces! And a Flatlander trying to view our three-dimensional world would only be able to perceive shapes in two-dimensional cross-sections. A balloon passing through the Flatlander’s world, for instance, would start as a tiny dot, become a hollow circle which inexplicably grows to a certain size, then shrinks back to a dot before popping out of existence. And we three-dimensional human beings would seem very strange indeed to a Flatlander.
3. The Third Dimension—a Fold
Imagining the third dimension is the easiest for us because every moment of our lives that is what we’re in. A three dimensional object has length, width, and height. But here’s another way to describe the third dimension: if we imagine an ant walking across a newspaper which is lying on a table, we can pretend that the ant is a Flatlander, walking along on a flat two-dimensional newspaper world. If that paper is now folded in the middle, we create a way for our Flatlander Ant to “magically” disappear from one position in his two-dimensional world and be instantly transported to another. We can imagine that we did this by taking a two-dimensional object and folding it through the dimension above, which is our third dimension. Once again, it’ll be more convenient for us as we imagine the higher dimensions if we can think of the third dimension in this way: the third dimension is what you “fold through” to jump from one point to another in the dimension below.
4. The Fourth Dimension—a Line
Okay. The first three dimensions can be described with these words: “length, width, and depth”. What word can we assign to the fourth dimension? One answer would be, “duration.” If we think of ourselves as we were one minute ago, and then imagine ourselves as we are at this moment, the line we could draw from the “one-minute-ago version” to the “right now” version would be a line in the fourth dimension. If you were to see your body in the fourth dimension, you would be like a long undulating snake, with your embryonic self at one end and your deceased self at the other. But because we live from moment to moment in the third dimension, we are like our second dimensional Flatlanders. Just like that Flatlander who could only see two-dimensional cross-sections of objects from the dimension above, we as three-dimensional creatures can only see three-dimensional cross-sections of our fourth-dimensional self.
5. The Fifth Dimension—a Split
One of the most intriguing aspects of there being one dimension stacked on another is that down here in the dimensions below we can be unaware of our motion in the dimensions above. Here’s a simple example: if we make a Möbius strip (take a long strip of paper, add one twist to it and tape the ends together) and draw a line down the length of it, our line will eventually be on both sides of the paper before it meets back with itself. It appears, somewhat amazingly, that the strip has only one side, so it must be a representation of a two-dimensional object. And this means that a two-dimensional Flatlander traveling down the line we just drew would end up back where they started without ever feeling like they had left the second dimension. In reality, they would be looping and twisting in the third dimension, even though to them it felt like they were traveling in a straight line.
The fourth dimension, time, feels like a straight line to us, moving from the past to the future. But that straight line in the fourth dimension is, like the Möbius strip, actually twisting and turning in the dimension above. So, the long undulating snake that is us at any particular moment will feel like it is moving in a straight line in time, the fourth dimension, but there will actually be, in the fifth dimension, a multitude of paths that we could branch to at any given moment. Those branches will be influenced by our own choice, chance, and the actions of others.
Quantum physics tells us that the subatomic particles that make up our world are collapsed from waves of probability simply by the act of observation. In the picture we are drawing for ourselves here, we can now start to see how each of us are collapsing the indeterminate wave of probable futures contained in the fifth dimension into the fourth dimensional line that we are experiencing as “time.”
6. The Sixth Dimension—a Fold
What if you wanted to go back into your own childhood and visit yourself? We can imagine folding the fourth dimension through the fifth, jumping back through time and space to get there. But what if you wanted to get to the world where, for example, you had created a great invention as a child that by now had made you famous and rich? We can imagine our fourth-dimensional selves branching out from our current moment into the fifth dimension, but no matter where you go from here the “great child inventor” timeline is not one of the available options in your current version of time—“you can’t get there from here”—no matter how much choice, chance, and the actions of others become involved.
There are only two ways you could get to that world—one would be to travel back in time, somehow trigger the key events that caused you to come up with your invention, then travel forward in the fifth dimension to see one of the possible new worlds that might have resulted. But that would be taking the long way. The shortcut we could take would involve us folding the fifth dimension through the sixth dimension, which allows us to instantly jump from our current position to a different fifth dimensional line.
7. The Seventh Dimension—a Line
In our description of the fourth dimension, we imagined taking the dimension below and conceiving of it as a single point. The fourth dimension is a line which can join the universe as it was one minute ago to the universe as it is right now. Or in the biggest picture possible, we could say that the fourth dimension is a line which joins the big bang to one of the possible endings of our universe.
Now, as we enter the seventh dimension, we are about to imagine a line which treats the entire sixth dimension as if it were a single point. To do that, we have to imagine all of the possible timelines which could have started from our big bang joined to all of the possible endings for our universe (a concept which we often refer to as infinity), and treat them all as a single point. So, for us, a point in the seventh dimension would be infinity—all possible timelines which could have or will have occurred from our big bang.
8. The Eighth Dimension —a Split
When we describe infinity as being a “point” in the seventh dimension, we are only imagining part of the picture. If we’re drawing a seventh dimensional line, we need to be able to imagine what a different “point” in the seventh dimension is going to be, because that’s what our line is going to be joined to. But how can there be anything more than infinity? The answer is, there can be other completely different infinities created through initial conditions which are different from our own big bang. Different initial conditions will create different universes where the basic physical laws such as gravity or the speed of light are not the same as ours, and the resulting branching timelines from that universe’s beginning to all of its possible endings will create an infinity which is completely separate from the one which is associated with our own universe. So the line we draw in the seventh dimension will join one of these infinities to another. And, as boggling as the magnitude of what we are exploring here might be, if we were to branch off from that seventh dimensional line to draw a line to yet another infinity, we would then be entering the eighth dimension.
9. The Ninth Dimension—a Fold
As we’ve explored already, we can jump from one point in any dimension to another simply by folding it through the dimension above. If our ant on the newspaper were a two-dimensional Flatlander, then folding his two-dimensional world through the third dimension would allow him to magically disappear from one location and appear in a different one. As we’re now imagining the ninth dimension, the same rules would apply—if we were to be able to instantaneously jump from one eighth dimensional line to another, it would be because we were able to fold through the ninth dimension.
10. The Tenth Dimension—a Point?
Before we discussed the first dimension, we could say that we first started out with dimension zero, which is the geometrical concept of the “point.” A point indicates a location in a system, and each point is of indeterminate size. The first dimension then, takes two of these “points” and joins them with a line.
When we imagined the fourth dimension, it was as if we were treating the entirety of three-dimensional space in a particular state as a single point, and drawing a fourth-dimensional line to another point representing space as it is in a different state. We often refer to the line we have just drawn as “time.”
Then in the seventh dimension, we treated all of the possible timelines which could be generated from our big bang as if this were a single point, and imagined drawing a line to a point representing all of the possible timelines for a completely different universe.
Now, as we enter the tenth dimension, we have to imagine all of the possible branches for all the possible timelines of all the possible universes and treat that as a single point in the tenth dimension. Whew! So far, so good. But this is where we hit a roadblock: if we’re going to imagine the tenth dimension as continuing the cycle, and being a line, then we’re going to have to imagine a different point that we can draw that line to. But there’s no place left to go! By the time we have imagined all possible timelines for all possible universes as being a single point in the tenth dimension, it appears that our journey is done.
In String Theory, physicists tell us that Superstrings vibrating in the tenth dimension are what create the subatomic particles which make up our universe, and all of the other possible universes as well. In other words, all possibilities are contained within the tenth dimension, which would appear to be the concept we have just built for ourselves as we imagined the ten dimensions, built one upon another.
In many countries, a sneeze that occurs after making a statement is often interpreted as a confirmation by God that the statement was true. No word on whether more truthtelling occurs during cold and flu season.
In 400 BCE, the Athenian general Xenophon gave a dramatic oration exhorting his fellow soldiers to follow him “to liberty or to death” against the Persians. He spoke for an hour, motivating his army and assuring them a safe return to Athens, until a soldier underscored his conclusion with a sneeze. Thinking this sneeze a favorable sign from the gods, the soldiers bowed before Xenophon and followed his command. Their battles were a resounding success. Xenophon’s record of the entire expedition against the Persians and the journey home was titled Anabasis (“The Expedition” or “The March Up Country”). It is worth noting that the Anabasis was used as a field guide by Alexander the Great during the early phases of his expedition into Persia.
Another divine moment of sneezing for the Greeks occurs in the story of Odysseus. Odysseus returns home disguised as a beggar and talks with his waiting lover Penelope. She tells him that Odysseus will return safely to challenge her suitors. At that moment their son sneezes loudly, and Penelope laughs with joy, reassured that it is a sign from the gods.
So here is a New Year’s sneeze for you, a sign from the gods that the year will be wondrous, healing, and prosperous for all of us:
That said, I still feel that starting a new year on January 1 is the height of artificial construct. Although most cultures saw the year as beginning at the spring equinox, January assumed its position as the first month in 153 BCE simply because Rome’s consuls, or constitutional heads of state, were elected on January 1. The reason for this shift of the new year into the dead of winter was to allow the new consuls to complete the elections and ceremonies upon becoming consuls, and still reach their respective consular armies by the start of the campaigning season.
In Europe in the Middle Ages, the new year began on Christmas Day, with January 1 being designated the Feast of the Circumcision of Jesus (Jewish law mandated that boys be circumcised eight days after birth, and January 1 is eight days after Christmas). The adoption of the Gregorian calendar in 1582 fixed the start of the new year as January 1, but the religious feast days stayed the same.
Circumcision predates recorded human history, with depictions found in stone-age cave drawings and ancient Egyptian tombs. Circumcision was variously seen as a form of ritual sacrifice or offering, a sign of submission to a deity, a rite of passage to adulthood, a mark of defeat or slavery, and an attempt to alter aesthetics or sexuality.
So why does the Torah require circumcision precisely on the eighth day—even if that day falls on the Sabbath? The number seven symbolizes that something is complete; eight, then, is the number of new beginnings: new not only in the sense of fresh or unspoiled, but new as in strange, unknown, revolutionary. Noah saved eight persons from the Flood to start rebuilding life on earth. The inauguration of the Tabernacle as the new dwelling place for the presence of God took place on the eighth day, after seven days of preparation. When Israelites were healed of leprosy, they were to present themselves in the Temple on the eighth day as the beginning of their new life.
The number eight is a potent symbol in many cultures and traditions. It’s the basis for much of Chinese yin-yang philosophy. Buddhism has its Noble Eightfold Path, its Eight Auspicious Symbols, and its Eight Worldly Dharmas. Hinduism has its eight-pointed Star of Lakshmi, representing the eight kinds of wealth that the goddess Lakshmi imparts. The planet Venus was also represented as an eight-pointed star (“the Star of Ishtar”), because it returns to the same position in the sky every eight years.
Every eight years, the winter solstice sun falls on the day of a new moon; this is the shortest amount of time that lunar and solar calendars were in approximate alignment. The eight years from one such “meeting of sun and moon” to the next were called a “Great Year” and measured the life span of the sun, because at each of these “meetings,” the old sun died and the new one was born for the next cycle. Consequently, in many ancient cultures (particularly Greece), kings, for whom the sun was an apt symbol, served only for eight years at a time, after which their kingship had to be renewed. (The Greek mathematician and astronomer Meton of Athens introduced a more accurate nineteen-year lunisolar calculation, now called a Metonic cycle; an even more accurate alignment occurs every 334 years.)
Robert Anton Wilson—essayist, philosopher, psychologist, futurologist, anarchist—wrote a marvelous piece called “The Octave of Energy” which looks at the repetition of the number eight throughout human history, arguing that it’s actually hardwired into our DNA. As Antero Alli put it,
A message is the ordering of a signal. This message is the framework of an alternative education system, one which arranges living planetary signals into meaningful messages. These signals come in octaves, or cycles of eight. Languages throughout history have translated these signals as: The Overtones of Music Theory, The DNA Code, The I Ching, Computer Binary Notation, The 8 Mayan Calenders, The Game of Chess and other interpretations of the universal law of octaves.
To that list I would add the Medicine Wheel as a map of the human psyche. Many of Wilson’s ideas are based on The 8-Circuit Model of Consciousness proposed by Dr. Timothy Leary. I’ll be returning to discussions of their work, and similar approaches by Alli, Gurdjieff, and even Gene Roddenberry, in future posts.
So we start January with nods to brain circuitry, genital modification, religious symbology, and sneezing pandas. Not a bad way to start.
The ancient Saxons called January wulf-monath, or Wolf Month. According to Verstegan’s 1605 book with the delicious title A Restitution of Decayed Intelligence in Antiquities concerning the most noble and renowned English Nation, Wolf Month was so named “because people were wont always in that month to be more in danger to be devoured of wolves than in any season else of the year, for that, through the extremity of cold and snow, those ravenous creatures could not find beasts sufficient to feed upon.”
May this year keep the wolf in your heart, but away from your door.
I love the annual death of Daylight Savings Time (or, as I understand it is now to be called, Daylight Saving Time, without the s; or, as my dictionary prefers to call it, daylight-saving time). And I’m certainly far from thrilled with the notion of it starting a month earlier and lasting for an extra week beginning next year, which I understand is supposed to do what DST has always tried to do: conserve our energy resources. (Apparently solar energy and wind power is still off the table.)
American farmers and, according to one book, “defeated urban dwellers,” got DST repealed during Woodrow Wilson’s administration, causing all sorts of confusion and a few train wrecks. WWII got DST back in place, then after the war, more chaos, because each locality could start and end DST as it desired:
One year, 23 different pairs of DST start and end dates were used in Iowa alone. And on one West Virginia bus route, passengers had to change their watches seven times in 35 miles! The situation led to millions of dollars of costs to several industries, especially transportation and communications. Extra railroad timetables alone cost the equivalent today of over $12 million per year.
Interestingly, one of the most vocal contingents to oppose DST in the 1930s were the Fundamentalist preachers, who considered it an offense against God. They felt the government had taken the country off “God’s time” and put it onto clock time. Now, God’s time, in the mind of people who use that phrase, really means “sun time,” but by 1883 most Americans were off of sun time anyway because the railroads had put us on “standard time”—the railroads had simply imposed it on the country as a commercial necessity. Sorry, Fundies, God didn’t invent standard time—the railroads did.
Of course, contrarian that I am, I’d prefer an entire world run on sun time: an unchanging twelve hours of daylight and twelve hours of darkness. Wonderfully precise, don’t you think? Only the actual length of those hours would change, and they’d wax and wane as the seasons changed.
Granted, it would wreak havoc on the aforementioned train schedules, and television programs would have to be considerably longer in the summer than it is around Yule. But just think of the economic boost, as everyone would be forced to get brand new, specially engineered clocks and watches that could slow down or speed up to keep pace with the sun!
Seriously, though: with DST off, the night comes upon us so much more suddenly. It’s a shock to the system, but a good shock, I think.
In pagan Celtic terms, it coincides almost exactly with Samhain, the beginning of the Dark Half of the Year. (If you’ve ever wondered why the solstices were anciently called Midwinter and Midsummer, it’s because the year was divided in two: dark and light, “winter” and “summer,” and their midpoints were the solstices).
Even here in steamy Florida, it suddenly makes me want to huddle closer to the fire, drink cocoa or mulled cider with friends, and engage in some wonderful storytelling.
That’s what makes it God’s time for me.