Tuesday, 31 December 2013

The Hourglass of Time

Where better to contemplate the end of one year and the beginning of another than in a graveyard? I went to my local one in West Linton this morning to capture some pictures of hourglasses, such as the winged one above.

In a way I'm not one to consider this last day of 2013 as much different from any other day. The first day of the year was arbitrarily decided by other mere mortals many centuries ago and they could have chosen any which day of the equally randomly determined year. We are on the eve of a new moment at all times. Every little second we live is unique in itself and the like of it won't come again. And every breath we take signals another, never before experienced, event in our lives.

On the other hand I have always been, and will probably remain, fascinated by time and the way it tends to run our lives. So I looked up some quotations about the hourglass:

The sand in the hourglass runs from one compartment to the other, marking the passage of moments with something constant and tangible.
If you watch the flowing sand, you might see time itself riding the granules.
Contrary to popular opinion, time is not an old white-haired man, but a laughing child.
And time sings.”  Vera Nazarian

The more sand has escaped from the hourglass of our life the clearer we should see through it. (Niccolo Machiavelli)

I'm not sure Machiavelli got this one completely right, but at least he inserted the word "should"!

Nietzsche come closest to how I feel about time:

"What if a demon was to creep after you one night, after your loneliest loneliness, and say: This life which you live, must be lived by you once again and innumerable times more; and every pain and joy and thought and sigh must come again to you, all in the same sequence. The eternal hourglass will again and again be turned, and you with it, dust of the dust! Would you throw yourself down and gnash your teeth and curse that demon? Or would you answer: Never have I heard anything more divine."

I know what my answer would be! Do you?

The quote also reminds me of a book by Simone de Beauvoir called Tout les hommes sont mortels (All men are mortal), published in 1946. It tells the story of Raimon Fosca, a man cursed to live forever. If ever you desire to do the same this is a chilling tale of the consequences. I first read this book many years ago when I was too young to truly appreciate its darkness but like all her books it is worth re-reading again and again.

There, despite all good resolutions, I'm getting morbid! So let me leave you and 2013 with one last quotation by Thomas Mann (another of my favourite writers):

"Time has no divisions to mark its passage, there is never a thunderstorm or blare of trumpets to announce the beginning of a new month or year. Even when a new century begins it is only we mortals who ring bells and fire off pistols"

And I won't even be doing those things, in order not to scare the dogs!

Happy Hogmanay!

3 comments:

Jewels said...

Very philosophical for the last day of the year - I don't think I will be in a graveyard though (much too cold and snowy here). I must confess the older I get the more seamless it becomes to transition to a new calendar date (as that is all it really is) since time just speeds along more and more quickly. The one thing I do like is being able to "shut the door" on a period of time especially one that was not the best. I much prefer to look forward anyways. Having said all that - all the best to you Frieda until the calendar date changes again :)

Leslie said...

Frieda, this is a beautiful post. I always enjoy your writing but this one is a gem. The quotes are excellent and the images of those lovely old graveyards you have over there are beautiful. Peace and contentment to you in the new year.

Linda said...

Excellent images and quotes Frieda! I'm not a bit surprised you chose to visit a cemetery. Lots of things to ponder...
a very happy New Year to you!

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