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better to go to bed than curse the darkness

Today is the third evening in a row where we've managed to go without any electronic illumination beyond the glow of our computer screens. It's not on purpose—just that sunset has caught up with the time we want to start winding down—but I like it a lot. Way back when I was in college I remember hearing a famous Cornell professor, an expert on sleep, declare that over the years the incandescent lightbulb has had a worse effect on our health than any other invention. I don't know about that, but it's certainly one more thing we use to let ourselves feel like we're the masters of our own destiny; not always a good thing, if you ask me.

It's a very personal objection, my occasional dislike of electric lights. I'd never suggest that doing without them would improve anyone's life. But myself, I very much enjoy the feeling of being in tune with the natural world that going to bed at dark brings—especially in the summer when it doesn't start getting dark until after 8:00. There are a few different positives for me. One is that I appreciate how much light there is outside even when the house gets dark. Late evening is a pretty awesome time to be outside (except for the mosquitoes), but we rarely realize it if we turn our lights on as soon as it gets too dark to read inside the house.

More usefully, not using the lights also helps get me to bed earlier, since I have an external signal that it's time to stop doing stuff (I sometimes forget otherwise, especially when Leah's already in bed). Of course, as Leah points out to me, our house is plenty light even when we don't turn on the lights: the sleeping computers, humidifiers, and wipes warmers all emit a comforting glow, and there are nightlights in strategic places as well. And of course we can make more light: I'm staring at a glowing screen now and Leah is working by the light of her sewing machine. Obviously, this is not the level of purity that would fly on an Orthodox Sabbath.

Still, it's handy. Even with all the light the computer is putting out I can tell that it's pretty dark in this room. That sends my brain a signal that it's time to be asleep, even if I have to do just a little extra last work to make sure that folks have something to read tomorrow. Plus the eye-strain makes me feel extra-special tired!

And when we go to bed with the sun, we can rise with the sun too. We did this morning, and I had time before work to bake a batch of biscuits for Leah to bring to friends without feeling rushed at all. And the early morning is just as nice a time to be out and about as the late evening—I can't believe how many people are missing out! Of course, with Harvey there's always the risk that we're going to have to rise with the sun anyways, so all the better if we can make sure to get a lot of sleep before that point.

None of this is to suggest that we're going to keep up this pattern. Things arise—things like Bible Study and evenings out and work that absolutely needs to get done. But while it lasts, I'm really enjoying this chance to live according to a different schedule, one that's not dictated by all the painful and annoying exigencies of modern life. I'm also resisting the temptation to ante-date this blog post to make it look like I finished it earlier than half an hour after full dark, and I'm going to bed right now!


oh great! go tell the world that I can't even make my own biscuits to bring on social calls! Tell them how you WOULDN'T LET ME make the biscuits because it's YOUR RECIPE!!!

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