Laurence Sterne’s The Life and Opinions of Tistram Shandy, Gentleman, Volume I, Chapter I
The clock’s ‘tick-tock’ I take to be a model of what we call a plot, an organisation which humanises time by giving it a form; and the interval between ‘tock’ and ‘tick’ represents purely successive, disorganised time of the sort we need to humanise. (p. 45).
The clock face in Modern Times approaches six o’clock. Ours approaches one. Any significance?
Mad Hatter talks about Time. In all his insanity he manages to remind us that ‘Time’ and ‘clock’ are two separate entities. ‘Time’ is a being with subjectivity, ‘clock’ is his tool. The ‘T’ and the ‘c’.
‘He won’t stand beating. Now, if you only kept on good terms with him, he’d do almost anything you liked with the clock. For instance, suppose it were nine o’clock in the morning, just time to begin lessons: you’d only have to whisper a hint to Time, and round goes the clock in a twinkling! Half-past one, time for dinner!’
Do you know the author of the poem “The Watchmaker’s Shop”? It has the following lines:
I wonder he doesn’t get tired of the chime
and all the clocks ticking and telling the time;
But there he goes winding lest any should stop,
This queer little man in the watchmaker’s shop.
Or, consider this image in Sunday Times magazine earlier this year:
I wrote in a blog:
Yesterday, we saw this remarkable image in Sunday Times, which is part of a series of photographs by Andrew Moore capturing the tough times in Detroit. The pictures are from the photographer’s book, Detroit Disassembled.
When JZ and I saw this image for the first time, we both immediately thought of Salvador Dalí’s famous “The Persistence of Memory” (1931). In the painting, melting pocket watches are found in a landscape scarcely inhabited by humans. The tick and tock gone for time, although persistent, no longer means anything without a perceiver. Or, to be precise, time as a concept is defunct if there is no one measuring its units.
So many years have passed since my first visit to Cambridge. And the giant Corpus Clock (above) outside of the Taylor Library at Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, only reminds me of the harshness of time more.
According to a Wired article in January 2009, the Corpus Clock (also know as “The Time Eater Clock”) does ‘un-clocklike’ things such as slowing down, stopping and even running backward (Dr John Taylor, the clock designer, says, “I wanted a clock that could play with you.”). But we all know regardless of the movement of the device, time marches forward, waits for no one. (Listen to the programme “The Physics of Time”.)
The insect on top of the clock, which is called a chronophage, or time-eater, is at first glance scary, but at second glance, pitiable. The creature looks as though it is punished by a higher power to forever ride on time, and yet never able to control it. It looks ghastly. Humans are it.