Circadian Health and the Natural Order

This week the 4:30pm sunset made its rude and abrupt re-entrance. Only the time change experiment could make it so startling. Maybe you agree with the sentiment that the Daylight Savings Time change is cruel and unusual and unhealthy. I certainly do. Despite rumors, nothing on that front is set to change. Yes, the US Senate passed a bill in 2022 attempting to change the DST program which dates back over 100 years. It proposes to make DST permanent which is controversial from a health perspective (as opposed to permanently eliminating it). The House of Representatives did not take action on it, so as of now nothing is changing from a federal viewpoint.

The Massachusetts legislature currently is facing two bills- both to do away with the time change policy, with differing strategies. The economic hawks want to keep Daylight Savings Time in place forever — thought to be better for retail bottom line with more sunlight shopping hours in the afternoon. Doctors, including yours truly, want to stop monkeying with the time and leave it alone in its original configuration — when noon means the sun is at its high point in the sky. This is not arbitrary. There is a perfect symmetry to how the natural light is balanced in the hours before and after noon around 6am and 6pm in relation to location on the earth and time of year.

There is a natural order. It is harmonious, and it does matter. Experts that focus on sleep, health and circadian rhythms agree: changing the time twice per year is a bad idea, and we should be sticking with standard time (which is what we are in again as of this week).

We have an internal system that is in tune with nature. The laws that run our body are closely in sync with those that run the earth’s systems. We need morning light in the summer and evening darkness in the winter.

It’s no surprise: honoring natural law is health giving.

Who will win — the retail economy? your health? Or will we stay with the status quo (and the shock-to-the-system time changes)? In any event, we can enjoy the sunsets.

Societal Health and Divine Natural Law

The philosophy of being in harmony with the natural order is one that can carry us far.

Any thinker can make a study of natural law. It doesn’t hide from us. It is everywhere for us to observe.

Meditate on what you know about yourself and your community:

  • each one of us have our own dignified blueprint. 
  • happiness and fulfillment are connected to self-expression and authenticity more than any other factor.
  • self-expression and creativity are magic ingredients for both the individual and society.
  • we each have tremendous innate self-worth.

These are powerful facts. I place the right to self-determination at the center of societal and medical philosophy. I argue it’s in line with the divine natural law.

Finding Robust Good

Society’s rules should then be to support the development of the individual which then in turn would be the source of societal good and health, both rising out of the developed individual. 

This is the path of self-mastery: emotional regulation, delayed gratification, surrender, generosity are the result. This is a path of robust societal good (and health).

On the other hand, the opposite might be to fall prey to concerns over toxic distortions of individualism and egotism and to lose sight of the truth of our self-worth and value of our self-expression. “What if the individual runs rogue?” Distrust creeps in. Society might be tempted to employ collectivist-oriented philosophies, emphasizing the group-serving solutions over individual-oriented ones. This tends to see the source of good (and health) as originating outside us. A paternalistic controlling class forms and individual development is weakened. Without honoring the natural law evident in autonomy and self-leadership, society risks an impoverished “good” based on coercion, manipulation, and blind obedience: much like in a prison setting.

Better to go with the natural order, in my view.

Follow your Heart

Listen, this is just an autumn offering to honor the power of your authenticity and self-worth. I also want to point out the health-giving principles inherent in the world that should be our guides. Think about it a little. Follow what is evident and observable. When in doubt, you can always fall back on what’s in your heart. After all, that’s kind of at the center what I’ve been writing about in this bulletin.

If there is to be peace in the world,
There must be peace in the nations.
If there is to be peace in the nations,
There must be peace in the cities.
If there is to be peace in the cities,
There must be peace between neighbors.
If there is to be peace between neighbors,
There must be peace in the home.
If there is to be peace in the home,
There must be peace in the heart.