Story of the Day for Wednesday September 7, 2011
A Time to Agree
I beg of you . . . that all of you agree with each other so that there might be no more divisions among you.
1 Corinthians 1:10
How many hours is it before the next sunrise? That, obviously, depends on where you live because the sunrise will vary by 24 hours – depending on your longitude.
In the 1800s, communities in England had the instruments to accurately calculate high noon. Keeping accurate time in your hometown created no big problem until the railway system increased its speed. On an east to west railroad, every town will reach high noon at a different time. Even the city of London’s time differed by two minutes from one end of the city to the other.
In the United States, the situation was no better. Each railroad company decided to set a standard time – no matter where it went. But the railroad companies couldn’t agree on what time should be used. So, each railroad operated by a different time. The train station in Pittsburg had six clocks – each one set to a different time – depending on which train you wanted to ride on. In 1883, W. F. Allen found that there were about fifty different “official” times in use throughout the country.
During World War I, the U.S. established Daylight Savings Time in order to conserve fuel. When the war was over, some localities continued using Daylight Savings Time and others refused. In one 35-mile stretch of highway from West Virginia to Ohio, the local time would change no less than seven times.
When communities acted in their own self-interest to determine the time, no one really knew what time it was. Everyone was frustrated and confused.
We often assume it’s in our own self-interest to act in our own self-interest, but this isn’t always the case. John Allen Paulos, in his book, Innumeracy, cites an experiment demonstrating how self-interest works against us.
He asks us to imagine twenty casual acquaintances brought together by an eccentric philanthropist. No one is allowed to communicate with each other. The philanthropist then explains to the group that, if everyone refrains from pressing a button in front of them, they will each receive $10,000. If, however, some in the group do press the button, they will receive $3,000, and those who refrained from touching the button will receive nothing.
It is in everyone’s self-interest to avoid touching the button and receiving $10,000 a piece. But, without the ability to talk and cooperate with other, how likely is it that everyone in the group would act to bring the greatest benefit to themselves (and everyone else)?
The saddest thing about insisting on what we want is that we won’t get what we want. God has created us so that we gain the greatest good by sacrificing our own best interests for the sake of the needs of others.
(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)