Sunday March 12 2017: Saving Daylight


Prelude: Here Comes the Sun – George Harrison

Welcome: Here in this sanctuary – Jack Mendelsohn

Welcome to this community.

Here in this sanctuary of ancient dreams and wisdom and beauty we come to grow, to be healed, to stretch mind and heart, to be challenged, renewed; to be helped in our own continuing struggles for meaning and for love; to help build a world with more justice and mercy in it; to be counted among the hopers and doers.

In the face of cynicism, darkness, brutality around us and within, we seek to align ourselves with a living community that would affirm rather than despair, that would think and act rather than simply adjust and succumb.

Here we invite the spirit of our own humanity and the healing powers under, around, through and beyond it, to give us the nerve and grace, the toughness and sensitivity, to search out the truth that frees, and the life that maketh all things new.

Chalice lighting: Take from life its coals – Laurel S Sheridan

Take from life its coals, not its ashes.

Fan the flames of love and justice;
join hands and hearts in common endeavor;
and there will be no limit to what we can achieve together.

Song: Gathered Here (5 times)
Please rise in body or in spirit and join in singing Gathered Here, five times.

Gathered here in the mystery of this hour.
Gathered here in one strong body.
Gathered here in the struggle and the power.
Spirit draw near.

Sources of Unitarian Universalism
Unitarian Universalist congregations affirm and promote seven Principles, which we hold as strong values and moral guides. We live out these Principles within a “living tradition” of wisdom and spirituality, drawn from sources as diverse as science, poetry, scripture, and personal experience. These are the six sources our congregations affirm and promote:

  • Direct experience of that transcending mystery and wonder, affirmed in all cultures, which moves us to a renewal of the spirit and an openness to the forces which create and uphold life;
  • Words and deeds of prophetic women and men which challenge us to confront powers and structures of evil with justice, compassion, and the transforming power of love;
  • Wisdom from the world’s religions which inspires us in our ethical and spiritual life;
  • Jewish and Christian teachings which call us to respond to God’s love by loving our neighbors as ourselves;
  • Humanist teachings which counsel us to heed the guidance of reason and the results of science, and warn us against idolatries of the mind and spirit;
  • Spiritual teachings of Earth-centered traditions which celebrate the sacred circle of life and instruct us to live in harmony with the rhythms of nature.

Song: Morning Has Broken (HCL 266)
Please rise in body or in spirit and join in singing Morning Has Broken – music and words can be found in Hymns for the Celebration of Life, number 266.

Story: “An Economical Project for Diminishing the Cost of Light” – Benjamin Franklin (1784)
In the years 1776 through 1785, Benjamin Franklin, he of Poor Richard’s Almanac and lightning in a bottle fame, was in Paris as ambassador from the newly formed United States to the King of France. Near the end of this time, perhaps at least partly out of boredom, he set himself to solving a number of simple, yet important, problems. The following text was published in the Journal de Paris for 16 April 1784.

(Read the full English-language text of Franklin’s essay here:

Offering and Response (Unison)
We will now collect this morning’s offerings.

For the gifts which we have received — and the gifts which we, ourselves, are — may we be truly grateful. Yet more than that, may we be committed to using these gifts to make a difference in the world: to increase love and justice; to decrease hatred and oppression; to expand beloved community; to share, and to keep sharing, as long as ever we can. Amen.

Reading: “Daylight Savings May Mean a Prize” – UPI (April 1984)
The following story was reported by United Press International in April 1984:

The Eldorado Daily Journal [of Eldorado, Illinois] asked its readers to save daylight during Daylight Savings Time, and has offered a prize for the person who saves the most.

The rules are simple:

“Beginning with the first day of Daylight Savings Time, those entering the contest must begin saving daylight. Those who save the most daylight by midnight of the last day of Daylight Savings Time will be awarded a prize.”

“Only pure daylight is allowed. No pre-dawn light or twilight will be accepted. Daylight on cloudy days is allowable. Moonlight is strictly prohibited and any of it mixed with daylight will bring immediate disqualification.”

“Contestants are instructed to save their accumulated daylight in any container they wish, then bring the container to the Daily Journal office at the end of DST — or when they think they have saved enough daylight to win.”

(Read further about the Eldorado Daylight Saving Contest here:

Lesson: Saving Daylight – Robert Helfer

Today is Daylight Saving Time Sunday, and I’m sure some of us regret this annual disturbance of our normal time sequence. Some of us might have been tempted to growl like bears rousted prematurely out of hibernation, or to roll over back under the covers and ignore the clock. I’ve never been fond of this rude interruption in the natural flow of sunrise, sunset, and the lengthening and shortening of the day. It seems that no sooner does the sun, near the end of a cold, dark winter, finally stand above the horizon when I get out of bed, than suddenly it’s pressed back by an extra hour and I must dress in the dark once again. It’s annoying.

Some 40 or so years ago, a friend of mine lent me a children’s book, the title and author of which I unfortunately no longer recall (I’ve searched catalogs and Internet to no avail). It was the story of a kingdom which had never used Daylight Saving Time. But one day the king’s wise advisers presented this new idea to the king, explaining enthusiastically how it would improve the lives of his subjects, and bring to the kingdom the immense value of saved daylight. The king soon became so enamored with the idea of these saved daylight hours that he began advancing the clocks in his kingdom by an hour every week; then every day; then several times each day. By the end of the story everyone in the kingdom was living in total confusion, not knowing what time it was, working in the dark and sleeping, as best they could, in the bright light of day.

Ever since I first read that book I’ve thought about its lesson (if there was one), especially in the spring when I’m directed by someone to set my clocks ahead on some mysterously-selected Saturday night; and, when I was still working at a “normal job”, again on the following Monday morning when my body and brain insisted that I didn’t need to be ready for work for another hour. But I muddled through, and breathed in deep relief each fall when I was granted an extra hour – yes, by then it had become an “extra hour”, not the hour that had been taken away from me the previous spring – before getting up.

The contest, described in the reading, in the little Illinois city of Eldorado interests me. Apparently it interested a lot of people at the time. Bob Ellis, the paper’s managing editor and author of the contest, was contacted and interviewed by major newspaper, television, and radio outlets from all over the country. I don’t know if any of them actually took the contest seriously (what I’ve read suggests that at least some of them might have), but clearly they were interested. Or, perhaps, simply amused.

But what about this “daylight” we’re supposed to be saving? Is it really something that we can save? Is it really something valuable?

Ben Franklin, as quoted earlier, would say definitely yes. He was thinking about economics. He was thinking about resources wasted by evenings without daylight: too many candles, too much lamp oil. And he detailed the immense savings that would accrue to the citizens of Paris if they were to rise with the sun. Indeed, the whole “letter” sounds like an elaboration of Poor Richard’s dictum “Early to bed, early to rise …”. But I especially like his comment about readers of the Journal “who with me have never seen any signs of sunshine before noon.” Franklin was clearly teasing about that “with me” part, but nevertheless, the assertion reminds me a bit of a long ago part of my own life … but I digress.

If you look into the history of Daylight Saving Time, in the United States at least, you can see Franklin’s economic concerns writ large.

First we must remember that this apparent alteration of time cannot be separated from the notion of “standard time”.

Time there was that people measured the day by the sun. Morning began when the sun began to peek above the eastern horizon; noon arrived when the sun stood high overhead; and evening came as the sun slowly vanished below the western horizon. Every farm and every community basically had its own time, and those who had clocks set them by the sun. Sundials, of course, were always right, because they told you about the position of the sun here, now, and that was the only time that mattered. That’s an oversimplification, of course, but it was roughly true before the introduction of the railroads with their need for schedules and uniform notions of “what time is it, anyway?” and “is the train on time?”. Without those notions, the train can never be either “on time” or “late” – it just gets there when it gets there and leaves when it leaves – sort of like some buses I used to ride.

So time zones were created that told us all that when it’s 2:00 p.m. in New York City it’s also 2:00 p.m. in Clarksburg, West Virginia, and in Indianapolis, Indiana. And it’s 1:00 p.m. in Chicago, Illinois. All this without regard to the sun’s actual position in the sky in each of those places. But it means that the railroad can say that the train will arrive at 2:00.

But this isn’t the time to talk of such things, beyond the simple point that economic concerns are the reason uniform time exists at all. You can’t have a train schedule, you can’t have a factory schedule, indeed you cannot have any schedule, without some generally accepted idea of “what time is it, anyway?

But Daylight Saving Time goes a bit beyond standard time. It shows recognition of the way the length of time the sun shines during the day changes over the seasons of the year, and it shows a desire to use as much of that daylight as possible.

Daylight Saving Time was introduced in various forms in various parts of the United States beginning in the early 1900s, notably during the first World War, but it was not systematized until the Uniform Time Act of 1966. This Act addressed essentially economic issues. One concern was uniformity, an issue for interstate commerce; so, for example, the railroads could print schedule booklets for their entire routes, and you would know when to expect the train. But as with Franklin’s suggestion, conservation of resources was also a very important concern. This was made abundantly clear by the Emergency Daylight Saving Time Energy Conservation Act of 1973. Because of this Act, in 1974 Daylight Saving Time began on 6 January and did not end until 27 October; in 1975 Daylight Saving Time resumed on 23 February and ended on 26 October. The title of the Act tells all: the purpose was Energy Conservation; an attempt to reduce energy usage during the crisis caused by the Organization of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries’ decision in 1973 not to supply oil to the United States.

Of course, if I buy less oil, the person who sells the oil sells less of it. My savings are his losses, so to some extent the economic advantage is ambiguous. In that light, I’ve been wondering how the Parisian candle merchants might have responded to Franklin’s suggestion. He claimed that the people of Paris would reap great financial benefits because they would be buying fewer candles, but the chandlers would have seen a massive financial loss. Maybe I shouldn’t think too deeply about this.

But is the only value of extra daylight hours economic? Is there any other benefit that we might see, maybe something “spiritual”, however we might define that word? I’m not trying to suggest that there’s nothing spiritual about economics – indeed, in my opinion anything human must have some spiritual aspect, maybe not readily visible but present nevertheless. But maybe there’s something more, something more directly related to the daylight itself and our experience of it?

So here we come back to the Eldorado daylight contest.

Now, Daylight Saving Time currently begins on the second Sunday in March, but in 1984 it began on the last Sunday in April, so it was perfectly logical that the contest should be announced at the beginning of April. The contestants, after all, would need time to plan their daylight collection methods and prepare their daylight storage jars and boxes. So, is it significant that the announcement was published on April first? Perhaps, perhaps not.

In any case, in announcing his contest, Bob Ellis added, “all entries will be donated to less fortunate nations that do not observe Daylight Savings Time.” So, all this saved daylight has a value, a value that people who do not save their daylight are missing out on. But, of course, we can’t really save daylight in a bottle, and since we can’t we can’t really give it to someone else. This value that Ellis implied is of a different nature, something we gain from direct personal experience.

As Ellis explained at some point:

It’s about time that someone recognized how valuable Daylight Savings Time is to us. It allows us to participate in so many more activities during the summer.

We are a nation of hard-working people, and this unique time schedule lets us enjoy ourselves after we get away from the day’s labors. This will be a salute to the American worker and how he uses his free time.

Getting home from work with the sun still shining means extra time for leisure activities, especially outdoor activities. This daylight, these activities, this extra bit of life, these extra hours of living, can help us all restore ourselves, at least a little, every day – lift our spirits, ease our minds, bring some sanity and health back into our lives. And – Ellis didn’t say this, but surely he thought it – getting up in the darkness of the early morning a few extra days each year is perhaps a small price to pay for all these sunny evenings. I know many people who would agree. I might be one of them — after a few days.

Music: I Can See Clearly Now – Johnny Nash

Joys and Sorrows
(Please save announcements and comments until the end of the service)

By custom in our community, each person may chose to tie a ribbon to our “Tree of Life” to represent that person’s joy or sorrow, whether it was spoken or left unspoken. An additional ribbon is also tied to the Tree each Sunday to represent all unspoken joys and sorrows.

If you woke this morning with a sorrow so heavy that you need the help of this community to carry it;
or if you woke with a joy so great that it simply must be shared,
now is the time for you to speak.
For the joys and sorrows that haven’t been spoken, but which remain in the silent sanctuaries of our hearts.
These joys and griefs, spoken and unspoken, weave us together in the fabric of community.

Silent Meditation
Let us join our hearts and minds in silent meditation

Song: Go Now In Peace (3 times)
Please rise in body or in spirit and join in singing Go Now in Peace, three times.

Go now in peace, go now in peace
May our love and care surround you
Everywhere, everywhere, you may go

Closing: Carry the Flame – Brian Kiely

The Chalice is now extinguished,
but its light lives on in the minds and hearts and souls of each one of us.

Carry that flame with you as you leave this place and share it
With those you know
With those you love
and most especially, with those you have yet to meet.

The chalice is now extinguished.
Go now in peace.

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