Reflections on Uncertain Times

We live in interesting times. Here in the Twin Cities metro area life has radically changed from just a month ago. After rattling around solely in geographies that are “someone else’s problem”, the Coronavirus situation has come home to the US. In the last 30 days, the stock market has fallen from its highs on February 19th by about 33%, panic has caused stores to have to ration basic supplies like toilet paper, and schools nationwide have been closed, possibly for the rest of the school year.

My children are home now. I am fortunate to have a job that I can do mostly from home, and am fortunate to have an amazing wife who succeeds for the most part in channeling my kids’ immense energy in positive directions allowing me to be able to focus enough to stay employed. I am very aware that many are less fortunate. Many have lost jobs, and many people with jobs are without childcare to allow them to work. Our healthcare workers have a monumental task ahead of them. And of course there’s the sickness itself, which for some people can be very serious. My heart goes out to you, no matter how you are impacted by this.

“Don’t watch the clock; do what it does. Keep going.” – Sam Levenson

American writer and humorist Sam Levenson said “Don’t watch the clock; do what it does. Keep going.” This quote has been used by many motivational speakers, and its meaning has been stretched to anything from ‘don’t let the clock run your life’ to ‘in difficult times, don’t wish for it to be over, live in the moment’ to ‘embrace the busyness’. I don’t really know what Sam originally meant by this or what the circumstances were when he wrote it, but as he was born in 1911 and lived through two world wars and the Great Depression, I’m sure he had ample experience with adversity. I suspect his aim was to encourage us to focus on the task at hand and not to pine for easier times so much that we forget to live in the moment.

I would like to revise his quote to be “Look at the clock and do what it does. Keep going.”


In addition to my wife and children keeping me company at home, I have a number of inanimate friends that remind me of their presence with ticks and chimes. The picture above is of a few of the clocks in my home office. On the left is a Welsh Tall Case clock from about 1750, signed Winstanley, Holywell. In the center is a Waterbury No. 3 Regulator from around 1880, and on the right is a Waltham regulator labeled Central Scientific dating from about 1910.

I find antique clocks very beautiful and fascinating. They are surprisingly precise – even low-grade clocks run within a few dozen seconds a week, which considering there are almost 605,000 seconds in a week, is quite something. I’m also captivated by the history of the clock. How many families have treasured our Welsh Tall Case since its construction 13 generations ago? Where has it spent its life? When did it make the voyage across the water to America? What conversations did it overhear while ticking away in the corner?

In the 275 years since this clock was made empires have risen and fallen, America became a nation, we have fought brutal wars, and we have made technological and humanitarian advances. The clock shows some wear and tear, which I find beautiful, but through all of that time and history, it’s still going, having ticked somewhere around 8.6 billion times. Not without help, of course; many clockmakers have cared for this clock over the centuries without whom this clock would have been on the scrap heap long ago.

Look at the clock and do what it does. Keep going.

I think looking at an old soldier like Winstanley reminds us that tomorrow will come. We were never promised a life without challenges, but with a little help from friends we will keep going.

Psalms 34:1-8 (New Living Translation)

I will praise the LORD at all times. I will constantly speak his praises.
I will boast only in the LORD; let all who are helpless take heart.
Come, let us tell of the LORD’s greatness; let us exalt his name together.
I prayed to the LORD, and he answered me. He freed me from all my fears.
Those who look to him for help will be radiant with joy; no shadow of shame will darken their faces.
In my desperation I prayed, and the LORD listened; he saved me from all my troubles.
For the angel of the LORD is a guard; he surrounds and defends all who fear him.
Taste and see that the LORD is good. Oh, the joys of those who take refuge in him!



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