passage of time, on time

a mysterious and powerfully written passage in the 2010 Pulitzer Prize winner that I just finished reading.

[from tinkers, a novel by Paul Harding, pp. 179-180]

Choose any hour on the clock. It is possible, then, to conceive that the clock’s purpose is to return the hands back to that time, a time which, from the moment chosen, the hands leave and skate across the rest of the clock’s painted signs and calibrations and numbers. These other markings on the face become irrelevant in themselves; they are now simply clues pointing in the direction of the chosen time. It is then possible, too, to conceive of the clock’s gears and springs as each having its own intrinsic function, but within a whole mechanism, the larger purpose of which is to return to the chosen time. In this manner, the clock resembles the universe. For is it not true that our universe is a mechanism consisting of celestial gears, spinning ball bearings, solar furnaces, all cooperating to return man (and, indeed, what other, unimagined neighbors of whom we are ignorant!) to that chosen hour we know of from the Bible as Before the Fall? And as an ignorant insect crawling across the face of that clock, who sees not the whole face, the full cycle of numbers, the short hand and the long (which pass in his sky with predictable orbits, cast familiar shadows, offer reassurance through their very repetitions, but which, ultimately, puzzle and beg for the consideration of deeper mysteries), but who merely treads over the surface which hides the gear train and the springs without any but the most indirect conception of what lies beneath, so does man squirm and fret on the dusty skin of our earth, ignorant of the purpose of the world, indeed, the cosmos, beyond the fact that there is one, assigned by God and known only to Him, and that it is good and that it is terrifying and that is ineffable and that only rational faith can soothe the desperate pains and owes of our magnificent and depraved world. It is that simple, dear reader, that logical and that elegant.

-from The Reasonable Horologist

by the Rev. Kenner Davenport, 1783

[The Reasonable Horologist is actually not a real book – Harding often quotes from it, but it is wholly fictional as well, written by him, and meant to pose an interesting juxtaposition with the rest of the story. It is an interesting technique!]

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