The gap in time

“Truth is rightly named the daughter of time, not of authority.” Francis Bacon

 “The eternal silence of these spaces frightens me.” (“Le silence eternel des ces espaces infinis m’effraie.”) Pascal

timeovercomeby truth

Pietro Liberi (Venetian School) Time Being Overcome by Truth c. 1665 Private Collection. Image: WGA.
An exasperated woman puts the boot in.

How many damned anniversaries does each of us have to have?

Are we not reborn with each new experience, so much more important to us than a bloody, noisy, messy, weepy event that cost our mothers pain?

And that’s just the weddings.

And do not the most significant things happen in the unmarked gaps in time? The greatest passions are felt beneath the lines.

Our deepest thoughts are in silent crevices. We climb in and out of them before facing the world again.

I looked, I laughed, I loved, I hated, I remembered so I repeat. The reasons, the true histories, are unrecorded on the face of time – until someone writes a novel or a poem.

There’s an ugly word in the usually beautiful English language for those pregnant pauses and frightening spaces: interstices.

I once had to say it, trembling on the edge of its four syllables of plosive and sibilant gory, in a reading from a Thomas Hardy novel at a wedding, the ears of bride, groom and a hundred guests pricking at me.

They no longer speak to me.

Interstices. A nasty physical condition? Or a neglected classical Greek hero? “Achilles aimed his spear at his mysterious adversary, and raised his shield, but he was not prepared for the quicksilver cunning of Interstices.”

It’s more fashionable to use “liminal” to describe the barely discernible borders of being.

The word conjures other-worldliness, something aspirational and expensive, a foggy high ground of which possession confers an undeserved spiritual superiority, where only poets and dreamers have been before.

Was it a vision, or a waking dream?
                Fled is that music:—Do I wake or sleep?

In these inbetween moments, the nuanced milliseconds of pretentiousness, we feel, or like to think we feel, more truthfully than in the marked time we present to the world. Smoke gets in your eyes.

Happy Liminalday.


Monet, London Parliament in Fog Effect (Le Parlement, Effet de Brouillard), 1903. Museum of Fine-Arts, St Petersburg, Florida. Image: Wikipedia.

On a foggy day, our feelings might change for ever.

Through the fog, the clock tower of London’s Parliament is easy to see, partly because we expect it to be there. The clock, later nicknamed Big Ben after its giant bell, had been made five years before its installation in St Stephen’s (now called Elizabeth) Tower, Westminster.

In the gap between, it existed, true to itself, but in a stage of metamorphosis unseen by us.

The clock as we know it started ticking on the 31st of May, 1859. The great bell that makes all the noise did not chime until 11th July, 1859, like an aspiring actor who has not found his voice, or a baby who does not know how to scream until it is six weeks old, or somebody who is still wondering who they really want to be.

clockFalconet, Clock: The Three Graces c. 1770
White marble, gilt bronze, height 80 cm. Musée du Louvre, Paris. Image WGA

Made at a time when even timepieces were a pretext for drawing room titillation, three naked, nubile girls dress technology in flower garlands, ensuring not an embarrassing cog, spring or pendulum can be seen. It’s a Rococo joke.

Just because they are eternally young and pretty, don’t assume The Graces can’t do their job of telling the time as reliably as Big Ben, or better.

clockThe Child of Time facing the world

11 comments on “The gap in time

  1. segmation says:

    Love your posts and your choices on the blog!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. […] Vermeer, Woman in Blue Reading a Letter 1663-4. Oil on canvas. Rijksmuseum Amsterdam. Image: WGA How reading a letter made time stand still. Vermeer painted the gaps in time. […]


  3. erickeyswriter says:

    Beautiful, Pippa. I’ve been obsessed with time lately – the way the future sometimes seems to haunt us as much as the past as if the two are colluding in some frightening game to which we’ve been denied a peak at the rule-book.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I wonder if aboriginal people colored their stories with ego and self-promotion. I suspect they did–unless they weren’t actually human 🙂 My search for “true self” led to many dead ends. In the movie “Last Days of Disco” by Whit Stillman one of the characters makes the point about “to thine own self be true”–what if that self isn’t so great? It is romantic to think the past was any better than the present. I don’t believe in progress. In the truest sense we haven’t gotten anywhere–nothing new under the sun as a wise man once said.

    As always beautiful writing, Pippa.


    Liked by 3 people

  5. Lelius says:

    Voilà un billet, chère Pippa, que j’aurais bien voulu pouvoir écrire… En français of course !
    Votre plume, affûtée comme un rasoir, me semble trempée dans le soufre. J’ai adoré.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. PJR says:

    Pete’s allusion to aboriginal people’s time culture indicates how dislocated western civilization became from natural and psychological needs. Big business/ego is possibly the cause? As soon as history became a malleable commodity for power and commerce, including self-promotional historians, it’s “truth” was compromised. In the necessary cause of survival, practical applications overthrew intuition and unconscious habla. This is the disconnection from true self that the Romantics declared war on. Etinkerbell is brilliant on all aspects of Romanticism, btw.

    Liked by 3 people

  7. All I can say is that I wish I had your way with words.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. beetleypete says:

    This piece was as incisive as a surgeon’s knife. I plead guilty to anniversary addiction. Whether birthdays, bereavements, events, or disasters, I cannot help myself marking them. The time in between is often wished away in anticipation,and even though I know I am doing it, and that it is wrong, I just cannot stop.

    In less rigid societies, aboriginal peoples recall time in a refreshingly different way. They talk of the time when there was no water, or when the buffalo were plentiful. This could refer to 500 years ago, or last month, but the listener always knows when it was, without further reference.

    The Monet painting appears in my mind often, so it is coincidental to see it here today. It has come to represent my image of the London I left behind; seen through a fog, in drab colours.
    A necessary part of moving on to something new.

    Very best wishes, Pete. x

    Liked by 3 people

  9. Elizabeth says:

    I love this post. Thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. PJR says:

    Thank you, Beth, for a characteristically generous and wise comment. I suspect you understand what I was trying to say better than I do.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Beth says:

    Thought-provoking and beautiful, Pippa. My favorite book on the subject of liminality is Murray Stein’s “In Midlife” – he’s a Jungian.

    Liked by 2 people

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