Time has no divisions to mark its passage; there is never a thunderstorm or blare of trumpets to announce the beginning of a new month or year. Even when a new century begins, it is only we mortals who ring bells and fire off pistols.

Thomas Mann, The Magic Mountain

What, then, is time? I know well enough what it is, provided that nobody asks me, but if I am asked what it is and try to explain, I am baffled.

Augustine, Confessions

Noble machine with toothed wheels
Lacerates the day and divides it in hours …
Speeds on the course of the fleeing century,
And to make it open up,
Knocks every hour at the tomb.

Ciro di Pers, 17th-century poet, writing about clocks

Calendars … do little more than synchronize us with the rest of society. … We cannot do without these devices, which in a manner of speaking help us pay what we owe to Caesar, but there is no reason why we cannot keep one calendar for Caesar and another for ourselves. At best this subversive calendar should ignore the usual pattern of weeks and months, reflecting instead the homogenous and coherent flow of time, the natural similarity of one day to another. … Leaving schedules and obligations to the conventional calendar, we should consecrate our own to a more internal dynamic: to essential outlays of vital energy—our growth, achievement, pleasure, and love.

Robert Grudin, Time and the Art of Living

Every act should be performed as though all eternity depended on it.

Franz Rosenzweig, in Nahum H. Glatzer's Franz Rosenzweig: His Life and Thought

Time sometimes flies like a bird, sometimes crawls like a snail, but a man is happiest when he does not even notice whether it passes swiftly or slowly.

Ivan Turgenev, "Quote of the Day"

You cannot kill time without injuring eternity.

Anonymous, in Annie Dillard's Teaching a Stone to Talk

The time has come to talk back, to insist that clocks are made for men and not vice versa. Timeliness is more important than efficiency.

Sam Keen, To a Dancing God

Time crumbles things; everything grows old under the power of time and is forgotten through the lapse of time.

Aristotle, Physics

When you sit with a nice girl for two hours, it seems like two minutes; when you sit on a hot stove for two minutes, it seems like two hours. That's relativity.

Albert Einstein, quoted in the Chicago Tribune

Be attentive to time and how you spend it. Nothing is more precious. This is evident when you recall that in one tiny moment heaven may be gained or lost. God, the master of time, never gives the future. He gives only the present, moment by moment.

The Cloud of Unknowing

To know time as gift is to know that its basic rhythms and inevitable passing are beyond our control. And to know time as gift is to recognize time as the setting within which we also receive God's other gifts, including the fruits of nature and the companionship of one another. To help one another to this knowledge is blessing indeed.

Dorothy C. Bass, Receiving the Day

Time is eternity wrapped up; eternity is time unwrapped.

Friedrich Christoph Oetinger, from Pietists: Selected Writings

Time is but the stream I go a-fishing in. I drink at it, but while I drink, I see the sandy bottom and detect how shallow it is. Its thin current slips away, but eternity remains. I would drink deeper; fish in the sky whose bottom is pebbly with starts.

Henry David Thoreau, Walden

Lord, let me know my end,
and what is the measure of my days;
let me know how fleeting my life is!
Psalm 39:4 (RSV)
Related Elsewhere

Past Reflections columns include:Quotations to Contemplate (Sept. 21, 2000) Christian virtues (Aug. 22, 2000) Beauty, Prayer and Loving God (Aug. 1, 2000) Prayer, Silence and Other Topics (June 31, 2000) Getting, Giving, and Generosity (June 13,2000). Easter Sunday (Apr. 3, 2000) Good Friday (Apr. 3, 2000) Friendships (Mar. 6, 2000) Gratitude: Take One (Feb. 7, 2000) God Will Prevail (Oct. 25, 1999) The Might of a Dandelion (Oct. 4, 1999) Losing Touch with God (Sept. 6,1999) Real Joy (Aug. 9, 1999) Prayer for Today (Mar. 1, 1999)

Have something to add about this? See something we missed? Share your feedback here.

Our digital archives are a work in progress. Let us know if corrections need to be made.