I am going to wash those dishes. That dress still fits me. I’m not the only parent to forget to pick up my children from school.
These are some of the lies we tell ourselves from time to time. Occasionally, we tell these kind of lies to others too.
You look great. Let’s put your tooth under your pillow for the tooth fairy. Sure, I’d love to watch your kids while you go on vacation.
One could argue that all of these white lies are small and harmless, but I call them gateway lies. Once we exercise our ability to lie, it is a slippery slope that inevitably leads to future lies, and possibly worse, babysitting someone else’s kids. While these aforementioned lies are relatively small denials of reality, human beings are just as capable of telling themselves deeper lies.
No one loves me, spaghetti squash tastes like pasta, I’m not racist.
It is these kinds of lies that can be much more dangerous. Now lying is very human, and in most cases, people fib in the interest of self preservation. Even when we lie to ourselves in extreme cases of denial, we use it as a defense mechanism to avoid severe anxiety. Denial can be a useful and even necessary tool. For those experiencing trauma, embarrassment, or even exhaustion, denial can help one from being too overwhelmed in the moment, so that he can still properly function. And even though we all may be guilty of experiencing some level of denial every now and again, it is much more dangerous when we do it together as a society.
Leggings are pants, Biden is of sound mind, Daylight Savings Time.
I don’t know if we can trace the sad hungry originator of promoting squash as pasta or the lean legged “leggings are pants” trendsetter, but I do know upon whom to thrust the blame for DST.
Benjamin Franklin was a revolutionary. Most notably a founding father of the United States, he is also known as a scientist, a politician, an activist, a writer, and an inventor. As such, he made countless contributions to science, politics, society, and public health and is credited with at least 11 inventions, many of which we still use today. What most people don’t realize, is that our ability to collectively deny reality traces back to Benjamin Franklin’s suggestion of Daylight Savings Time.
In 1784, Franklin penned a satirical letter for The Journal of Paris, proposing that if people were to wake up earlier in the summertime, they would generate substantial savings by economizing on their candle usage. Though it wasn’t put into practice until over a hundred years later, DST has become the standard practice worldwide of over half of the world’s population, for the better part of a century. Practically speaking, twice a year, society as a whole decides to deny the reality up until that point and simply chooses to adopt a new one. It may seem like a small change, but when you consider how much it actually affects us both physically and emotionally, this lie we all tell ourselves and each other, undoubtedly has an impact. According to WebMD, “Daylight saving, which was started to conserve energy, forces our internal clocks to compete with our watches… Our internal clocks regulate processes including liver function, the immune system, and our body’s physiology, which means any disruption can have significant effects.” Clearly, there is more to it than just resetting our clocks and pretending the time has actually changed. Reality doesn’t just shift because we imagine it strongly enough. If simply setting the clock back has this much impact, consider what other “choices of reality” can do.
In order for society to function, we need to work together. Though we all come from different places with at times conflicting sensitivities or values, we must first agree on the facts before we can approach a solution to any given problem. Collective denial has created a situation where it is nearly impossible to consent to defining the actual reality, let alone the particular issues. Instead, it requires us to respect others by denying our collective sense of truth in favor of a minority’s choice of reality. And in the name of progress, some of us play along with this game. It is too close to home for most to debate the merits or pitfalls of collective denial, but I would like to propose that its roots, and consequently, its ability to thrive, have been based on what was intended as satire and mistakenly taken seriously.
As we change the clocks once again this spring, I urge you to remember that even though Benjamin Franklin’s suggestion was in jest, if he is laughing now, it is certainly at us, not with us. Identifying sarcasm and humor can be life saving. Otherwise, it is Daylight Saving.