What commodity could be more precious than time? A person can amass wealth if he is smart enough like Microsoft kingpin Bill Gates or Chinese billionaire Jack Ma of the Alibaba Group. But who can accumulate time? There is only so much of it allotted to every human being. Ironically, many fritter away their time posting selfies on social media, watching inane TV shows, or engaging in pointless political debate. I trust that the following quotes, together with some artworks, will serve as food for thought about the value and nature of time and about life itself.
As we speak cruel time is fleeing. Seize the day, believing as little as possible in the morrow. ~ Horace, from Odes (c. 23 BC and 13 BC)
Time and tide will wait for no man, saith the adage. But all men have to wait for time and tide. ~ Charles Dickens, Martin Chuzzlewit (1843–1844)
The Bird of Time has but a little way
To flutter — and Lo! the Bird is on the Wing
~ Omar Khayyam, from Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam (1868 edition, translated by Edward FitzGerald)
Darkness settles on roofs and walls,
But the sea, the sea in the darkness calls;
The little waves, with their soft, white hands,
Efface the footprints in the sands,
And the tide rises, the tide falls.
~ Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, from The Tide Rises, the Tide Falls (1879).
You talk of the scythe of Time, and the tooth of Time: I tell you, Time is scytheless and toothless; it is we who gnaw like the worm — we who smite like the scythe. It is ourselves who abolish — ourselves who consume: we are the mildew, and the flame. ~ John Ruskin, from A Joy for Ever, lecture II, section 74 (1857)
And is not time even as love is, undivided and paceless?
But if in your thought you must measure time into seasons, let each season encircle all the other seasons,
And let to-day embrace the past with remembrance and the future with longing.
~ Khalil Gibran, from The Prophet (1923)
…time is a fluid condition which has no existence except in the momentary avatars of individual people. There is no such thing as was—only is. If was existed, there would be no grief or sorrow. ~ William Faulkner, from The Paris Review interview (1956)
The present moment contains past and future.
The secret of transformation,
is in the way we handle this very moment.
~ Nhat Hanh, Understanding Our Mind (2006)
The Breaking Waves, Tide of September 1901, 1901
Auguste Louis Lepère (French, 1849–1918)
Courtesy of The Cleveland Museum of Art
Yet Time, who changes all, had altered him
In soul and aspect as in age; years steal
Fire from the mind as vigour from the limb;
And life’s enchanted cup but sparkles near the brim.
~ Lord Byron, from Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage, Canto III (1816)
The touch of time does more than the club of Hercules. ~ James Branch Cabell, from The Way of Ecben (1929)
Truth was the only daughter of Time. ~ Leonardo da Vinci, from The Notebooks of Leonardo Da Vinci (1938)
Now, if the passions had no hold on us, a week and a hundred years would amount to the same. ~ Blaise Pascal, from Pensées (1669)
And grief shall endure not for ever, I know.
As things that are not shall these things be;
We shall live through seasons of sun and of snow,
And none be grievous as this to me.
We shall hear, as one in a trance that hears,
The sound of time, the rhyme of the years;
Wrecked hope and passionate pain will grow
As tender things of a spring-tide sea.
~ Algernon Charles Swinburne, from Poems and Ballads, ‘TheTriumph ofTime‘ (1866)
Serene, I fold my hands and wait,
Nor care for wind, nor tide, nor sea;
I rave no more ‘gainst time or fate,
For, lo! my own shall come to me.
I stay my haste, I make delays,
For what avails this eager pace?
I stand amid the eternal ways,
And what is mine shall know my face.
John Burroughs, from Waiting (1863)
Summer evening at the South beach, Skagen. Anna Ancher and Marie Kroyer, 1893
Peder Severin Kroyer (Danish, 1851–1909)
Courtesy of the Google Art Project
Evening Tide, California, no date
William Ritschel (American, 1864–1949)
Courtesy of the Smithsonian American Art Museum
~ Barista Uno