Clock watching

I am amazed that so many younger people (do I call them Millennials?) no longer wear a watch! How do they survive I ask myself.  Perhaps they look at their phone, perhaps they don’t bother.  But I’m always looking at my wrist, what’s the time, how long till, how much time have I got left, how much longer?

Hall Clock

My hall clock

So I was intrigued to be invited last week to a private view of a new installation at the Tate Modern called ‘The Clock’ by Christian Marclay.  It opened to the public this weekend and it will be fascinating to see the reaction.  As I sat there in the auditorium I thought that this would be a perfect place to bring Lord Cut-Glass from Dylan Thomas’ play ‘Under Milk Wood’ whose constant refrain is ‘Tick-tock; tick-tock’.

Lord Cut-Glass, in his kitchen full of time … listens to the voices of his sixty-six clocks, one for each year of his loony age, and watches, with love, their black-and-white moony loudlipped faces tocking the earth away: slow clocks, quick clocks, pendulumed heart-knocks, china, alarm, grandfather, cuckoo; clocks shaped like Noah’s whirring Ark, clocks that bicker in marble ships, clocks in the wombs of glass women, hourglass chimers,
tu-wit-tu-woo clocks, clocks that pluck tunes, Vesuvius clocks all black bells and lava, Niagara clocks that cataract their ticks, old time-weeping clocks with ebony beards, clocks with no hands for ever drumming out time without ever knowing what time it is. 

‘The Clock’ is brilliant – a 24 hour long filmed composed of clips from films, each clip showing a clock.  The clever thing is that the clock you see is exactly the right time for now, it is an installation in real time. So you get clips from every kind of film, some familiar, some not but each one with a clock somewhere showing 9.45, 9.46, 9.47, and so on as the minutes tick by.  You don’t need your watch as you sit there, clock watching, because the real time is always before you.

The Clock

I loved the cleverness and the simplicity and the fact that my life is so much clock-watching.  The Tate have a few 24 hour openings during the time that the installation is in place, so that, if you had the time and the will, you could sit there and watch the clock, all day.  And even if I couldn’t do that I would love to see what kind of films have a scene with a clock displaying the time 5.24am!

Students of New Testament Greek, learn that whilst there are four words for our one word ‘love’ there are two words for ‘time’ – kairos and chronos. Chronos is what you are watching when you sit in the Tate Modern glued to the clock.  It is sequential time, seconds, minutes, hours.  But kairos is the opportune time, the right time.  It was a kairos moment when a baby’s cry was heard from within a stable in Bethlehem. As St Paul says to the Galatians

But when the right time came, God sent his Son, born of a woman, subject to the law.‘ (Galatians 4.4)

But Paul here cleverly balances the right time with the use of the word chronos for time.  It wasn’t just the ‘fullness’ of time, as some translations have it, it was real, sequential time, measured time, into which Jesus enters.  Yet it remains at heart a kairos moment in chronos.

We kill time, we waste time, we lose time, we do all kinds of things to time, but God enters time and resets the clock.  If you are around London before the 20 January I encourage you to go and spend some time, watching the clock, in the experience of chronos there could be kairos.

Lord of time and of eternity,
bless the now moment of today
as you bless the forever moment of tomorrow.

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