For a long time, the hourglass has been a fitting reminder of the passage of time. While it can feel like an ominous symbol of the inexorable passage of time, the movement of sand through the hourglass is a fitting metaphor for time in a variety of ways. In many ways, the motion of the sand is itself a picture of such means of the passage of time we use like the rays of the sun, or the decay of various radioactive isotopes that we use to estimate time. One of the advantages of the use of sand is that the environment inside the hourglass is controlled, so that conditions do not change that would shift our perception of time. That is usually the case, at least.
When we think of metaphors for time, one of the more tragic aspects is that we do not know how much time we have left. The vast majority of the time in our lives, we go through our existence blissfully unaware of the fact that our time may be running out. There are, to be sure, many people who live under more or less a death penalty where they know they have a mortal condition that will sooner or later end one’s earthly existence, and when those days get small enough, people can be prompted to get their affairs in order because they are soon to meet their maker. Most people, though, live with various risk factors in their lives, but do not know if something will all of the sudden snuff out their life when they were not ready or prepared for it. Afterwards, we may see that the car accident or aneurysm or artery was being set up for death, but until it happened, it was a silent and stealthy killer lying in wait.
As human beings, we like to measure time and think that by measuring activities and using our time well that we can somehow control it. To be sure, we must redeem our time and not all of us redeem it very well, but we cannot control time. We can manage it, sometimes better and sometimes worse. We can squander it, but we cannot control it. Life is full of illusions, though, and sometimes the belief that we control time and can shape it to our will is what allows us to have hope in a world where so much seems so out of control.