It is a few days into the New Year, so I thought I would examine two metaphors for time. The first is well known: Old Father Time himself. The image of Father Time, the old man wielding a scythe, stems from ancient Greece and Rome, where Chronos, the god of time, was depicted almost identically. Chronos used the scythe to cut the balls off his father, Ouranus, who was the god of the heavens. In Rome, Chronos was known as Saturn while his father was Uranus. The jokes make themselves. I leave it to you, dear listeners, to parse one out.
The meaning of the Old Man Time metaphor is obvious: Time cuts down all things. The meaning of the Chronos and Ouranus metaphor is less direct: Chronos made sure that Ouranus would have no more children, and therefore had no real future.
The other metaphor for time is much more modern, and a bit less obvious to notice. It is the crocodile in Peter Pan, the one that swallowed a clock. Smee, Captain Hook’s first mate, says, “Someday, the clock will run down, and then he’ll get you.” As he’ll get us all, in the end.
And I’ll end this quasi theory with a bit of doggerel I have written.
Father Time’s in De Nile
Each day grows a little worse,
I proclaim in ragged verse.
Father Time’s a crocodile:
We’ll all disappear behind his smile.
Behind our eyes, the questions spin:
They’ll all go away, beyond his grin.
— Bhai Din