Hello, Darkness - 96.03 - 0 views
But the implication of electricity in the sleep deficit seems hard to argue with. Whatever it is that we wish or are made to do--pursue leisure, earn a living--there are simply far more usable hours now in which to do it
In the United States at midnight more than five million people are at work at full-time jobs. Supermarkets, gas stations, copy shops--many of these never close.
Living with electric lights makes it difficult to retrieve the experience of a non-electrified society. For all but the very wealthy, who could afford exorbitant arrays of expensive artificial lights, nightfall brought the works of daytime to a definitive end. Activities that need good light--where sharp tools are wielded or sharply defined boundaries maintained; purposeful activities designed to achieve specific goals; in short, that which we call work--all this subsided in the dim light of evening. Absent the press of work, people typically took themselves safely to home and were left with time in the evening for less urgent and more sensual matters: storytelling, sex, prayer, sleep, dreaming.
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John Staudenmaier, a historian of technology and a Jesuit priest, for a recent conference at MIT. (The essay will appear in a book called The Idea of Progress Revisited, edited by Leo Marx and Bruce Mazlish.) Staudenmaier makes the point--obvious when brought up, though we've mostly lost sight of it--that from the time of the hominid Lucy, in Hadar, Ethiopia, to the time of Thomas Edison, in West Orange, New Jersey, the onset of darkness sharply curtailed most kinds of activity for most of our ancestors.