Of course watches and clocks don't all need a large mass to make themselves step forward deliberately into tomorrow, they can vibrate with crystals or springs to create the same effect. An energetic monotony that takes the place of the object monotony that is a pendulum. At the end of the day energy and mass really are the same thing (thanks Einstein!), so for the sake of fluidity of narrative we will say that all time is kept through some mass moving through space. And this mass that we give the job to as time keeper, what faith can we have in it to stay as it is? The kilo locked away in the International Bureau of Weights and Measures outside of Paris, which we use to measure all other kilos against, is getting lighter (http://discovermagazine.com/2009/mar/08-kilogram-isnt-what-it-used-to-be-its-lighter.)
If the pendulum that swings with a perceived absolute regularity, suddenly isn't the pendulum I thought it was from the day before, what does this mean for the time I expect it to keep? While its period will change based on a changing world it flickers in and out of, I can still agree on the apexes of its swing: those moments at the very top of an arc where it will sit with the anticipation of a 100 children at the top of the largest peak of a rollercoaster track; arms ready to be flung into space in order to scream with the weightlessness of a decent promising to accelerate them towards some infinitely dense center.
Between these two apexes are moments of fluidity and generalization. Speculation. When was it at the bottom? The fastest? Could I yell out in a moment of clarity for those moments. No, I can only have the apexes to hold to; apexes in relationship through a curve cut across space; apexes as discrete moments tied together by the continuity of a silent WOOOOOSHHHH through air. In some ways a pendulum is a perfect vessel for holding discreteness and continuity together as one. A pendulum is John Archibald Wheeler showing that information theory is tangled up with quantum mechanics: binary states are fundamental to states that exist across a multitude (https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/cross-check/do-our-questions-create-the-world/).
An infinite set of possibilities set between two points that seem (so close, but not quite) to be carved from time itself.
And here is where the hum of a swinging mass starts to feel like watching a person living their life. It is like the creation of absolutes within a Self that I tie myself to in order to create narrative and a sensation of forward motion. My internal timekeeping. There are large absolutes of narrative, usually around belief systems, but the smaller ones are maybe more interesting: like brushing my teeth. Brushing my teeth is an apex of the pendulum of some clock in me. It keeps time in my day in a way that is consistent. It feels grounding, although quite arbitrary. If I try to explain to someone what it feels like to be in a new place, I usually am trying to describe to them the sensation of small absolutes of the day that give it structure: brushing my teeth, walking to my studio, meeting a friend at our usual time in a park (I've actually never had this as a regular occurrence in my life, but it sounds nice). And it is impossible to convey the way the relationship of these events feel. It is like describing the exact swing of a pendulum. We all understand that days pass, but its hard to describe why some feel different than another. How would I describe the exact languid motion or energetic bounce of a pendulum? A bunch of apexes that are the absolutes of our narrative -- the masses within ourselves -- touching from one to the next, with the space in between unimaginably continuous.
These narrative points of our stories -- these masses that live within us -- bookend the continuity of our time. Large events in my life I talk about as having weight. I talk about the "heaviness" of a situation. The language that I describe my narratives with end up giving mass to the events that I see as being absolute and unchanging. The more weight they feel, the more absolute they are. But just like the kilogram outside of Paris, these masses change. My timekeeping appears consistent but only in some internally relational way. I think an intriguing output of this idea is that all of these masses within me have a duality in their nature: they are equal parts markers of end points as well as of some continuity. Like the apex of the pendulum, the events I see as absolute only become discrete at the end of some story. Some loose trailing figure, like trash bags floating down overflowing side streets. All these absolutes are the top of a bell curve that seeps out into the surroundings: never isolated as an individual moment, but held as such to help me keep some rhythm of time within myself.
It's interesting to think about a typical shape of a pendulum in all of this: the cylinder. They seem to reflect the shape of a candle, which burns at some given rate, releasing energy that speaks to a mass that once was. Candles speak to time and illumination; a careful taking of stock of a surrounding; a tool for storytelling and intimacy. So then it makes sense that a pendulum would have this relationship in shape. I think within myself the absolutes of my narrative are consumed to create some larger illumination. The larger the mass -- the larger the event -- the better it will serve in finding some broader relationship within Self.
The grandfather clock my dad made has a small sun and moon on the hour and minute hand. They're slightly domed through dapping, also causing the metal to take on a texture like scales on a fish. At night they reflect ambient light from the street, and I lose sight of the large wooden slab they are a part of: the mass of the clock floats away to be replaced by silver and gold that somehow becomes equally massive, with light languidly seeming to bounce between their two shapes: a lazy game of pong performed endlessly on the face of a clock.