Meditations of a Mantle Clock

My unassuming mantle clock (photo: Craig Sabin 2019)

The silence speaks, given voice by the tick-tick-ticking tempo of an unaware, unassuming mantle clock. Attention now arrested, I contemplate the clock. That there is, in fact, a clock seems a certainty to me. It insistently casts its small brown form into the three dimensional reality of my room, its Roman face defiantly claiming the space in which its hands tirelessly sweep the present into the past.

Although I’m told philosophers of old thought to question the reality of substance, arguing that objects can never be known in their essence, being perceived solely through their external interactions. Therefore, they supposed, all may be but illusion. I suppose they may be right, but I equally suppose that when they stubbed hard their little toes, their doubt had soon departed to wherever one’s doubt goes, when clutching at the toes that have been injured on a rock. Thus sizing the worth of such speculations, I turn again to my little brown friend, the clock.

I contemplate that not only is he real – I now call it a he because “it” seems so impersonal to me – not only is he real, occupying my dimensional space, but by his own declension he describes a fourth dimension, circumscribing all the others where my contemplating him takes place.

And unless I am mistaken, there must have been a moment when his first tick-tock was taken, his first gasping lungful of the subtle substance he ceaselessly consumes and then exhales as he strikes forward through that cloudy brine, the mysterious medium we call time, marking his progress with the steady strokes of an Olympic swimmer.

There will just as surely come a moment when his ticking ceases. All things end. All things wind down. All decays. The modern learned speak of thermodynamic laws and talk about closed systems and something called entropy. Perhaps by giving another name, a scientific name, to the shapeless dread that stalks all the living, they suppose they can somehow master it.

The less learned, those like me, need no such fancy intellectual or scientific trappings to understand. We need only look at the earth in late autumn. Walk along a forest trail and gaze on the decaying carcass of a little creature whose only legacy is the small white skeleton that will soon itself succumb to the soil. Attend the funeral of one whom we knew and loved. As with all else, so with the ticking of the clock, and even the clock himself. But does he know, when his work is done, what lies beyond his last tired tick?

And what of me? Is my life like the clock? No. My life is more like the circus tent I once saw.

Staked by my birth at one end in the hazy reaches of pre-memory. And by my death at the other, in the dark/bright region of the not-quite-yet. The ticks of the clock are the stitches that bind together the fabric of my existence into the coherent structure of the tent. And upholding and creating the vast expanse beneath which all the other events of my life occur, like circus acts, are the great supporting poles that are my life’s defining moments, without which the whole tent would cease to be a tent and would collapse into a meaningless heap of canvas. The promise of a tent, but not a tent. About these great supporting poles, I resolve to write.

© Craig Sabin 2019 All rights reserved

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