Tempus Fugit

Marc Chagall… Only love interests me, and I am only in contact with things I love.

In the evenings, while the great refrigerator meltdown was raging, I retreated to one of my favorite films. Longitude. I love it so much I bought it to stream whenever I want, something I have hardly ever done. I don’t even remember when I did it, but there it was. It’s the story of John Harrison who spent most of his life developing a clock that could go on a ship to make accurate east/west navigation possible. Until the late 18th century it was impossible. Mariners went by their best guess using maps, the sky, experience, currents. Many, many people died when a land mass was mis-identified or they were farther from land than they thought, leaving sailors to die of starvation, dehydration, scurvy.

Until I saw the film some years back I didn’t know that, and that might have been the loveliest thing about the film. It awakened me (again) to the fact that we humans are constantly — wondrously — working things out. But what I love most about the film is that (at least as he’s depicted by Michael Gambon) John Harrison’s motivation was love. There was a very large reward for anyone who could solve the problem of longitude, and he wanted it for his son, but there was also (and, to me, more important) love for the work itself and the reality that it would save lives. The solution would be a particularly accurate clock with a movement that would be unaffected by the movements of the (18th century!) ship.

If you live in England, you can go see the clocks at Flamsteed House at the Royal Observatory in Greenwich. The featured photo is Harrison’s first sea clock.

It made me think about my life now. I don’t, myself, want to live from any other motive or be encumbered by irrelevancies. I know that’s not totally in my control, but I can try.

15 thoughts on “Tempus Fugit

  1. I wonder if it is available on Netflix? This sounds like a marvelous film… To love what you do and do what love is the best thing in the world! I’m living that right now. Hope you can continue to do the same!

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