Friday, December 10, 2010


I was just talking to a friend of mine about her efforts to transform into a morning person. It's something I've struggled with myself. I always worry on campouts that I'll be outed as a terrible leader, because everyone but me is awake, ready to pack up and head out. I haven't had that actually happen, since I usually do wake up earlier on campouts due to discomfort, but I'm not generally the first one up and at 'em. I was 20 minutes late to the gym this morning, because I had a hard time getting up after being up late watching a movie.

I've wondered sometimes if it really matters. Like this blogger says, maybe we're just born different. Why should we let ourselves be discriminated against? Why not push our employers to let us change to a 10-6 or 11-7 work schedule? Maybe we'd be better off moving to the East Coast and then working remotely for a company located on the West Coast. Perhaps there's an outsourcing market for that. Companies that don't want to completely offshore their work could hire slews of night people that live in a planned community in the middle of West Virginia where the curfew would be 4-9 a.m.

Then I remember Ben Franklin's refrain, which is mirrored in the Doctrine and Covenants, about going to bed early and waking up early. An important piece of context that really only softens the blow slightly is the part of the verse that says not to sleep longer than is necessary. I think we can understand that the point is, at least in part, that we shouldn't just sleep our lives away. Focusing just on that part, it would be easy to justify that sleeping in until 10 is okay if you went to bed at 3 a.m., since 7 hours of sleep would not be considered too much. The problem is that it's hard to misinterpret the Lord's point about going to bed and arising early. Of course this doesn't account for night shifts and other strange work schedules, and I'm not going to address that here.

Jumping back a little to verse 121 may provide a little more context. Light-mindedness and lust are more likely to be present at night than in the wee morning hours. Larry Lawrence explained in this last General Conference, "I have always believed that nothing really good happens late at night". It's probably true.

So even though us night people may be more productive at night, it ends up being a problem, since that's also when temptation and weakness are most prevalent. Of course, not everyone is going to just start giving into temptation simply because they are up late.

Looking to the Word of Wisdom, where it is explained that this counsel is adapted to the weakest of the Saints, it helps to understand the all or nothing nature of many of the commandments. There are people who could drink a glass of wine with dinner a couple nights a week and be fine, but for the benefit of those who are predisposed alcoholics, it is completely forbidden for all. That said, it took 100 years for the Word of Wisdom to be phased in as a requirement for all, though even now there remains some debate on the subject.

I'm going to go a direction here that I almost decided not to go, but I think it's an important point of comparison that has helped me. I want to first say that I have friends who I love and respect that are gay, and I'm involved in a local group that seeks to tear down the walls of hatred and misunderstanding related to sexual identity. Hopefully this doesn't serve to cause more contention in the matter, as we know there has been plenty of it to go around already.

If you haven't read that first link I posted, go read it now and then come back. The call to end discrimination by morning people against night people mirrors in some small way the fight against discrimination related to sexual identity. Please remember, I'm trying to say this in a way that doesn't marginalize sexual identity issues but rather reframes to some extent the morning/night person issue.

Of course we shouldn't discriminate against anyone for any reason. I've been treated poorly for being LDS. I feel most of society couldn't care less about the plight of us colorblind (or color deficient as the more commonly accurate term). I have gay friends who have been treated unfairly. It's not right. The movie Chocolat is a good example of the senseless hatred that can arise from treating someone poorly because of perceived differences and self-righteousness.

That said, taking a predisposition for certain weaknesses as a challenge to work on and overcome is an important part of our sojourn on earth. We shouldn't discriminate against others for the issues they have to deal with but rather focus on our own problems and be available to provide support for others in their quests as they need it. Likewise, to embrace our predispositions and flaunt them as natural and impossible to deal with is disingenuous.

It is very hard to balance all these issues without being branded insensitive or worse. My point is that as I work on my own predisposition as a night person, it helps me to know that others have struggled with and overcome predispositions for much more difficult things and helps me to understand, even if just to a limited extent, what they go through.

Something that has helped me as I try to arise earlier (maybe not at 4 a.m. like my dad and father-in-law) is to schedule an early time before work at the gym with other people. Getting my exercise in has helped me get in shape, and knowing there are others expecting me to be there has helped keep me motivated when it's so easy to slip back to sleep (yes, it's happened on more than one occasion). Get up at 6 a.m. enough days in a row, and you'll find your body will wake itself up at that time even without the alarm clock, and it's a lot easier to go to bed by 10 p.m., since you'll be so wiped out from being up so early. As controversial as President Packer's last talk in General Conference was, the advice he gives us is important in overcoming whatever we happen to be working on. Decide to exercise your God-given agency and don't look back. Even as inviting as those warm blankets are.

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