A couple of decades ago I was sitting in my English literature class which I was destined to fail. We were reading DH Lawrence’s “The Rainbow”. This – according to my teacher – was a novel where a spade wasn’t a spade. A horse in a field wasn’t a horse, it was a phallic symbol, for example. A church spire wasn’t a church spire, it was a vertical connection between Heaven and Earth.
Today, as church bells toll a couple of decades later, I am reminded of the nonsentities of literature – and of how much I hate church bells.
The bells, the bells 🙁
The passing of time doesn’t need to be clanged out for us, especially by the bell in my local village which clangs every quarter hour – dark, ominous and with a terrible sense of foreboding . And then there’s the ordeal on the hour – or some other randomly allotted time – when the clanging is seemingly as relentless as Einstein’s use of a hot stove as a chair. It goes on forever 🙁
There’s nothing inspiring, there’s nothing but…a clanger whacking the side of a piece of circular metal which has hung there for God knows how many decades. Perhaps centuries.
The bells in my village aren’t the only ones causing this nationwide – in fact – international, sonorous display of monstrous monotony. The bells clang at the same time as other bells in other towns and villages, other countries and continents. Stamping out time’s beat at the same time in different places, a spatial synchronisation even across time zones.
They’ve always done it. Today. Yesterday. Last week. Last year…and all through the ages.
The spatial synchronisation is clear, but I think there’s an argument for a temporal synchronisation too.
My wife says that she likes the sound of church bells not for the sound they make (seriously…who does?) but because they represent a connection to history.
Can it be true that the church bells connect each moment in time? That the chime on the hour marks not only the passing of the hour here and the passing of the hour across the world, but that it also marks it for days gone by?
In other words, the one o’clock chime today also marks one o’clock yesterday, last week and all of the one o’clocks back through history? (And by extension – in the opposite direction – all of the one o’clocks in the future?)
There was a TV commercial several years ago which was trying to flog watches. According to the advert a watch didn’t tell the time, it marked the moments of memories and gave promise for moments in the future.
Much as I hate to agree with marketing directors, I agree. We celebrate dates with no question – birthdays and anniversaries, for example. Why not increase the temporal resolution to monthly, weekly, daily…or hourly? (It makes sense – young couples celebrate in this manner!) Passing hours on a clock are of huge importance, not just for now, but also for what has gone before as well as what it to come.
So perhaps we can accept that “now” isn’t ‘just’ now and that it’s a link through time where the past is linked through the chiming present and into the future.
Church bells then. A noisy insult to nature – or working with(in) it giving us a direct link across time?