Time. We never seem to have enough of it. While visiting the Royal Palace in Stockholm, I learned that the keeping of time signifies much more than numbers and two ticking hands.
The handful of palaces I have visited are exquisite. There are hundreds of rooms, thousands of chandeliers, and lavish furniture. But in Stockholm there was one additional thing that stood out from the others. There were two rooms entirely dedicated to clocks. Clocks seem like a peculiar choice for a cultural artifact. I mean, we have them back home after all? The clocks were ornate and beautiful, larges and small. But it’s wasn’t their intricacies that caught my attention. It was the explanation of their purpose in the palace. They described the important history of clocks, their significance to society, and their peacemaking capabilities.
Many of the clocks on display were given to Sweden as gifts. They were meant to signify friendship, gratitude, and good and friendly relationships between countries. They were cultural and characteristic of the donor country, offering a little taste of the world to the palace.
Additionally one sign read: “When the striking of the clocks began to mark out the days, it was largely because of changes in society: a newfound faith in progress gave time an absolute authority, because it measured people’s advance to a better world.”
Upon reading this, the true weight of time’s significance really hit me. The fact that the systematic keeping of time was not always a standard became obvious. Where did time come from? How did it begin? Regardless, the introduction of the clock had an immense impact on society.
Measured time allowed for an increase in demand for discipline in daily life. “Early industrialism was heavily reliant on fixed working hours and routines”, read another display. It was incredible the social progress that was made due to clocks.
Then I couldn’t help but think how far we’ve come since then, and what time means to us now. We complain we don’t have enough. We are running from place to place, constantly battling measured time. Society is entirely driven by the discipline that clocks brought hundreds of years ago. It reminded me that time is bigger than a sequence of numbers or a point in the day. Time is an incredible gift. By measuring time via clocks, we have harnessed an aspect of nature to something we can count. Like the generous clock gifts, I was reminded that time should be appreciated instead of wasted. We should spend our time on friendship, gratitude, and fostering good and friendly relationships.