According to Discover Clocks’ website, “during the early centuries, monks and townspeople were content to divide a day into 12 hours of daylight and 12 hours of nighttime based upon the sun. Since the amount of daylight varies with the seasons, dividing daylight into 12 equal units made the length of an hour also vary with the seasons.
“When the first mechanical clocks were built in the 14th century, the idea of 24 fixed length hours became the norm in Europe. While the first mechanical clocks were used in the monasteries, as European towns expanded in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, civil governments wanted their own clocks to regulate life in the towns. The earliest clocks were built into turrets in the local churches or in specially constructed bell towers. Rather than keeping time with hands on a dial, many of these early clocks employed a hammer mechanism that struck the bell to announce the hour.”
Now clocks buzz, hum, sing the Star-Spangled Banner, turn on radios, and are used in bombs. They regulate our lives and indeed were once called regulators. We depend upon them to be angry when someone is late, or surprised when that same person is not. We set athletic records with them, we measure speed and distances and of course time elapsed and make value judgments, all based on an antique way of separating night from day.
For Aristotle, time was linked to movement and change; there is change because there is time, because all things that come to be and come to an end are in time. When we think anything is, the is we refer to is the dimension of time, and we can only truly grasp the instant we recognize as now. A now gone is history, a now not yet present is simple conjecture.
Aristotle’s definition of time is “a number of change with respect to the before and after,” in other words, something countable. And we are back to clocks.
Golda Meier once said, “I must govern the clock, not be governed by it.” And William Faulkner believed, “Clocks slay time... time is dead as long as it is being clicked off by little wheels; only when the clock stops does time come to life.” I like that.