Saturday, October 10, 2009

Morning Morality

Many people, especially those of a generation older than me, believe that there is something moral about getting up early every day, even if there is nothing that must be done at a specific early hour.

I had an aunt, even after she retired, who continued to get up at 4:30 each morning, even though she had nowhere to go and nothing more to do than sit in a chair. A religious fundamentalist, she always felt that staying in bed past dawn was a sinful thing. She was the type who would call a third shift worker at 11 am and ask, “Are you still in bed?” My response to such a question would be, “How about I call you at 2 am and ask you the same thing!”

The idea of the rightness of starting the day early is one that runs throughout our society. School days, and the majority of work days start early in the morning, even though studies have shown that peak alertness and productivity tends to come in the afternoon. Even nursing homes roust their residents up at the crack of dawn, which I think is insane. It’s not as if any of these people have anything to do and I’m sure a few more hours of blissful dreaming would be welcomed by many nursing home residents.

A corollary to the “early to rise” mentality is that one should always be doing something productive during their waking hours. Just relaxing, slacking, or hanging out is an offensive idea to the “up and at ‘em” crowd. My response to this is “I’m a human BEING, not a human DOING.”

When I’ve got something that needs to be done, I get it done in a timely fashion, but I’m not anal about schedules. Nor do I feel the slightest amount of guilt about sleeping until my body is ready to wake, just slacking on the couch, and so on. I know that saying no to a frenetic, fast paced life is better for my health, as it lowers stress levels and blood pressure.

At one time, getting up early made sense. This was in the days before electricity and most labor saving devices, so people needed to get up early in order to have light to work by. Though we’ve had electricity for well over a hundred years now, many people still attach a moral significance to rising early, even though the logical reason for it no longer exists. The “early to bed, early to rise” ethic has fallen into the realm of “that’s the way we’ve always done it”.

The hour at which one rises has no moral significance whatsoever. It’s just a personal choice, no more, no less.

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