O Tempora! O Mores!

[picture to follow when both computer and myself are feeling somewhat better; please check back!]


I never quite ‘got’ the grandfather clock song, it didn’t make sense to me that the clock just stopped when the old man died; clocks aren’t sentient, even if they can be sensitive, so how could the clock ‘know’, how could it grieve or pine?  Silly song.  (Unless maybe the grandfather was murdered, in which case, apparently, clocks always get broken so the time of death can be conveniently established.  Or mis-established if you really want to stretch and challenge your plot or your readers).

Old clocks don’t really seem to die either; their mechanics seem steadfast from one century to another, you just wind them and off they go again.  (Accuracy may be another matter, however).  And modern clocks?  Do they die?  We pop new batteries in them but probably get bored of the current design or model in our fickle modern way sooner than even the most skimpily-made clock dies.

Mind you, I have killed a clock before.  Or two.  But I would also like to indict my husband.  You see, we have a clock in our hallway, as most folk seem to do, but ours is right smack next to the loft hatch.  Three clocks later and we have a rule that the clock must be reverentially placed on a safe, flat surface in another room before any loft-bound mission commences.  We learn, albeit slowly.

It was the railways that brought standardised time, and the need for it, to the nation; although the time-counting passion had been fashionable for at least a couple of centuries before that.  I often wonder what the world was like before then, before all this time-keeping mania with its timetables and schedules.  A world before time?  In a certain sense, perhaps.

From King Alfred cutting notches in his candle (well, he did in my Ladybird book anyway) to the chap, or chap-ess, who first noticed the shadows revolving a stick or pole, we have long been fascinated, if not obsessed with time.  By marking out these divisions, we are seeking control.  And often than not, control over other people.  Maybe too, there is a feeling that orderliness can only be achieved with this mastery.  I don’t know, I still wonder at how it would have been with just the luminaries and the shadows to reveal the passage of time.  A more peaceful, a more natural existence?  Who of us can really tell?  We have a deep cultural impression of time seared within us now; we can choose to abandon the system and live wild in the wilderness but our ideas, our concepts, our mores of time come with us even if the clock doesn’t.

Dividing up our time, enumerating it, counting it, watching it, measuring it, what have we really achieved?  A sense, maybe, of just how little time we actually have and how little control we have over its relentless progress.  A two-edged sword, it seems, this time-keeping mania of ours.


3 thoughts on “O Tempora! O Mores!

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  1. My great great grandfather died while out haying and my great great grandmother knew because the pendulum dropped out of their grandfather clock so it does happen.

I'd love to know what you think, concrit is especially welcomed on fiction pieces. Thank you.

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