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Quotes: On time

Erich Maria Remarque:

After a while he says suddenly in the half-darkness: "What actually is time?"

George puts his glass down in astonishment. "The pepper of life," I reply. The old rascal can't catch me so easily with his tricks. Not for nothing am I a member of the Werdenbrück Poets' Club: we are used to big questions.

Riesenfeld disregards me. "What's your opinion, Herr Kroll?" he asks.

"I'm a simple man," George says. "Prost!"

"Time," Riesenfeld continues doggedly. "Time, this uninterrupted flow — not our lousy time! Time, this gradual death."


Marcel Proust:

When a man is asleep, he has in a circle round him the chain of the hours, the sequence of the years, the order of the heavenly host. Instinctively, when he awakes, he looks to these, and in an instant reads off his own position on the earth's surface and the amount of time that has elapsed during his slumbers; but this ordered procession is apt to grow confused, and to break its ranks. Suppose that, towards morning, after a night of insomnia, sleep descends upon him while he is reading, in quite a different position from that in which he normally goes to sleep, he has only to lift his arm to arrest the sun and turn it back in its course, and, at the moment of waking, he will have no idea of the time, but will conclude that he has just gone to bed. Or suppose that he gets drowsy in some even more abnormal position; sitting in an armchair, say, after dinner: then the world will fall topsy-turvy from its orbit, the magic chair will carry him at full speed through time and space, and when he opens his eyes again he will imagine that he went to sleep months earlier and in some far distant country.


Douwe Draaisma:

In hourglasses the grains of sand increasingly rub one another smooth until finally they flow almost without friction from one bulb into the other, polishing the neck wider all the time. The older an hourglass the more quickly it runs. Unnoticed, the hourglass measures out ever shorter hours. This chronometric imperfection hides a metaphor: 'For man, too, the recurring years fly past more and more quickly, until finally the measure is full. Man, too, is increasingly permeated by impressions.


Abraham Joshua Heschel:

Indeed, we know what to do with space but do not know what to do about time, except to make it subservient to space. Most of us seem to labor for the sake of things of space. As a result we suffer from a deeply rooted dread of time and stand aghast when compelled to look into its face.


E. B. White:

She is at that enviable moment in life [I thought] when she believes she can go once around the ring, make one complete circuit, and at the end be exactly the same age as at the start.


Charles Ray Goff:

But why are we so important? We have only 613,200 hours to live if we live to the age of seventy. We sleep a lot of that away; then there are four or five early years that we can't remember; also, there's a lot more time that's wasted in useless activities. And so we really don't have many years to live. This leaves us wondering why all this fuss about our importance.


Zora Neale Hurston:

There are years that ask questions and years that answer.


Michael N. McGregor:

Although the trip lasted only a month, it stayed with him the rest of his life. When someone asked in his later years how long he traveled with the Cristianis, he answered, ‘Even till now.’


Charles Baxter:

Any writer can learn how to use a request moment to enliven a story. King Lear asks his daughters to tell him how much they love him. The ghost of Hamlet’s father has a series of requests for his son. Lady Macbeth asks, or tells, her husband to fulfill his fate. A request — a demand — forces a character into action, or dramatically charged inaction, as in the case of Hamlet. One character turns to another character and says, ‘There’s something I want you to do. Oh, and by the way, the clock is ticking. I want you to do it by Friday.’


Terry Pratchett:

Your whole life passes in front of your eyes before you die. This is called living.


George Packer:

By 50, the obvious fact of your own decline is easily mistaken for an intimation of the world's.


E. M. Cioran:

When people come to me saying they want to kill themselves, I tell them, ‘What’s your rush? Your can kill yourself any time you like. So calm down.’


Jeanette Winterson:

I keep pulling at the rope. I keep pulling at life as hard as I can. If the rope starts to fray in places, it doesn't matter. I am so tightly folded, like a fern or an ammonite, that as I unravel, the actual and the imagined unloose together, just as they are spliced together — life's fibres knotted into time.


Art Greer:

Happily retired people spend their time doing what they've always enjoyed doing, only more of it.


Anthony Doerr:

He thinks of the old broken miners he’d see in Zollverein, sitting in chairs or on crates, not moving for hours, waiting to die. To men like that, time was a surfeit, a barrel they watched slowly drain. When really, he thinks, it’s a glowing puddle you carry in your hands; you should spend all your energy protecting it. Fighting for it. Working so hard not to spill one single drop.


Andy Andrews:

Why do the ages of our world’s greatest civilizations average around two hundred years?

Why do these civilizations all seem to follow the same identifiable sequence — from bondage to spiritual faith, from spiritual faith to courage, from courage to liberty, from liberty to abundance, from abundance to complacency, from complacency to apathy, from apathy to dependence, and finally from dependence back into bondage?


Peter S. Beagle:

"Would you call this age a good one for unicorns?" "No, but I wonder if any man before us ever thought his time a good time for unicorns."


Paul Virilio:

To what utopia and, more importantly, to what uchronia, to what new relationship with time?


Sources

Erich Maria Remarque. The Black Obelisk (1957). USA: Crest, 1958. p. 46.

Marcel Proust. Swann's Way (Du Cote de Chez Swann, 1917). Translated by C. K. Scott Moncrieff (1921). New York: The Heritage Press, 1954. p. 5.

Douwe Draaisma. Why Life Speeds Up As You Get Older: How Memory Shapes Our Past. (2001) Translated by Arnold and Erica Pomerans in 2004. Cambridge University Press, 2005. p 201.

Abraham Joshua Heschel. The Sabbath: Its Meaning for Modern Man. New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 1951. p. 5.

“The Ring of Time” by E. B. White. Reprinted in Understanding the Essay, edited by Edward O. Shakespeare, Peter H. Reinke, and Elliot W. Fenander. USA: The Odyssey Press, 1966. p. 186.

Charles Ray Goff. Shelters and Sanctuaries: Christian Hope in a Time of Confusion. Nashville, Tenn.: Abingdon Press, 1961. p. 18.

Zora Neale Hurston, quoted in the Associated Press, quoted in The Week, Sept. 26, 2014, p. 17.

Michael N. McGregor. Pure Act: The Uncommon Life of Robert Lax. Fordham University Press, 2015.

“Undoings: An Essay in Three Parts.” Charles Baxter. Colorado Review, Spring 2012, Vol. 39, No. 1. p. 106.

Terry Pratchett, quoted in TheBrowser.com. Quoting The Week, July 18, 2014. p. 15.

George Packer in The New Yorker. Quoted as "Viewpoint" in The Week. Feb. 22, 2013. p. 12.

E. M. Cioran, The Trouble With Being Born, quoted in Simon Critchley. Suicide. Thought Catalog, 2015.

Jeanette Winterson. The PowerBook. London: Vintage, 2001. p. 210.

Art Greer. The Sacred Cows are Dying: Exploding the Myths We Try to Live By. New York: Hawthorne Books, Inc., 1978. p. 93.

Anthony Doerr. All the Light We Cannot See. New York: Scribner, 2014.

Andy Andrews. How Do You Kill 11 Million People?: Why the Truth Matters More Than You Think. Nashville, Tenn.: Thomas Nelson, 2011. p. 46. Citing Andy Andrews, The Heart Mender (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2010), 141-42.

Peter S. Beagle. The Last Unicorn. (1968) New York: Penguin, 2008. p. 5.

Paul Virilio, with Bertrand Richard. The Administration of Fear. Translated by Ames Hodges. Les editions Textuel, 2012. Translation: Los Angeles: Semiotext(e), 2012. p. 77.

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