The clock in the bell tower of St Philip’s slowly rang out midnight. I counted each chime, one by one, and the last drew a sigh from me.

“So,” I said, “another day has just detached itself from my life; and although the diminishing vibrations of the brassy sound are still ringing in my ears, the part of my journey which preceded midnight is already as far away from me as the voyages of Ulysses or Jason. In this abyss of the past, seconds and centuries last just as long; and does the future have any more reality?” They are two voids between which I find myself balanced as if on the cutting edge of a blade. It is true: time seems to me to be something so inconceivable that I am tempted to believe that it really doesn’t exist, and what we call “time” is nothing more than a punishment of the mind.

I rejoiced to have come up with this definition of time, just as dark and obscure as time itself, when another clock chimed nidnight, which gave me a disagreeable feeling. There is always a certain ill humour at the back of my mind when I am vainly occupied with some insoluble problem, and I found this second admonitory tolling of the bell really rather out of place for a philosopher like me. But I was really put out a few seconds later when I heard from afar a third church bell, that of the Capuchin monastery situated on the other side of the Po, chiming midnight, as if out of malice.

— Xavier de Maistre (1825), translated by Andrew Brown, A Journey Around My Room

Amy Hoy @amyhoy