Monday, December 20, 2010

A Pause in Time

As the year winds down and we reflect on all that has transpired over the past twelve months, one thing is certain: time does not stand still. The continuous ticking of the clock helps connect our past to our future. Perhaps we are not where we hoped to be, but the persistent movement of the clock’s hands offers hope for days yet to come.

Because we are aware of our limitations as living beings, and because those limitations are framed by time constraints (we only have a certain amount of time on this earth), we often associate and even define personal achievement by the length of time it takes us to attain our goals. Our interweaving of success and time is unfortunate, in that it limits what can be labeled success: goals that are not readily quantifiable are often overlooked. We place greater emphasis on what we hold in our hands and less on what we keep in our hearts.

In the end, we are all subject to the same time limitations. Yet we would be better served by measuring success in something other than dollars per minute. Love and friendship are timeless, but what better way is there to define our lives than through those we leave behind? Our impact on those around us, while often unquantifiable, will continue to be felt as the clock continues to tick.

The connection between life and time is highlighted in My Grandfather’s Clock, a song composed in 1876 by the American songwriter Henry Clay Work. It is a song that my wife sang to our children when they were babies, and it is filled with melancholy, love and promise. As 2010 comes to a close, it offers perspective on the passing of time and the impact of a life on those left behind.

Happy holidays to all.

My Grandfather’s Clock

Henry Clay Work

My grandfather's clock
Was too large for the shelf,
So it stood ninety years on the floor;
It was taller by half
Than the old man himself,
Though it weighed not a pennyweight more.
It was bought on the morn
Of the day that he was born,
And was always his treasure and pride;
But it stopped short
Never to go again,
When the old man died.

Ninety years without slumbering,
Tick, tock, tick, tock,
His life seconds numbering,
Tick, tock, tick, tock,
It stopped short
Never to go again,
When the old man died.

In watching its pendulum
Swing to and fro,
Many hours had he spent while a boy;
And in childhood and manhood
The clock seemed to know,
And to share both his grief and his joy.
For it struck twenty-four
When he entered at the door,
With a blooming and beautiful bride;
But it stopped short
Never to go again,
When the old man died.

My grandfather said
That of those he could hire,
Not a servant so faithful he found;
For it wasted no time,
And had but one desire,
At the close of each week to be wound.
And it kept in its place,
Not a frown upon its face,
And its hand never hung by its side.
But it stopped short
Never to go again,
When the old man died.

It rang an alarm
In the dead of the night,
An alarm that for years had been dumb;
And we knew that his spirit
Was pluming for flight,
That his hour of departure had come.
Still the clock kept the time,
With a soft and muffled chime,
As we silently stood by his side.
But it stopped short
Never to go again,
When the old man died.

1 comment:

  1. Fascinating in that it hits upon the most popular word in our English language. Reminds me of the Sandler movie Click.