Sundial Philosophy : the little reminders, hidden around the world

I started listening to S-Town which, after two episodes, has quickly become one of my favorites. . Hosted by This American Life producer Brian Reed and produced by the creative team behind Serial, S-Town is brilliant, complicated, frequently troubling, and often painfully beautiful (via).

At the end of the second episode, John, the stories main character, shares a bit about sundials and their philosophy, "All sundial mottos are sad" he says, a reflection of the sentiments of its maker or owner.

"As the shadow crept along," Brian Reed states, "you were actually witnessing the rotation of the earth. It's so much less abstracted than a clock; a level closer to time itself."

And perhaps to life as well. 

With so much transition happening, like a countdown to our last hundred days in China, I'm more aware than ever of the precious fleeting moments of time, and time wasted. Some of these mottos struck a deep chord. Mottos like:

Life passes like the shadow

Tedious and brief

Dum tempus habemus operemur bonum. (While we have time, let us do good)

Use the hours, don't count them

Even as you watch, I'm fleeing

Soon comes night

In the podcast, Brian Reed says, "These little reminders are out there, hidden in crannies around the world." And they are, and I'm continually struggling with them.

Recently, I've given up sports. I didn't watch the Super Bowl (by accident) and haven't watched a sporting event since (on purpose) because the question came to mind, "If I never see another game again, will I really miss it?" I don't know. But I like asking the question, and I like filling in the time with other things, like blogging, reading, or being with my family.

Which is another reason why these mottos struck me. Because time is fleeing, the hours are passing by faster than I can count, and I'm terrified of what I'll miss. Of never gaining some of the hopes and dreams. So I've been more diligent than in years past, to write every day, and to read more often - and to process. Because . . .

I did nothing good today, I have lost a day

Dice bene vivere & mori (learn to live well and to die well)

Be as true to each other as this dial is to the sun

But what about resting? Sitting quietly in a living room with family? What about "living in the moment" with friends, or watching a movie with family? Are those "wasted times"? Because before I know it, my kids will be gone, my marriage several years older, and what then? If I've been published, have a successful writing career, and have traveled several more places but have lost time, what then? Because the sundials say,

Make haste, but slowly

Lente hora, celeriter anni. (An hour passes slowly, but the years go by quickly)

Serius est quam cogitas. (It's later than you think).

This is what I'm wrestling with. And the sun sets yet again.


Here's a history of the sundial and keeping time


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