What time is it? Just about everything we do is based on our clocks—when we go to work or class or bed at night, and especially when we get up. But how did people wake up before alarm clocks were invented?
Some people hired others to wake them. In the 1400s, town criers of the port of Sandwich, England, roused sailors with a weather report. Much later, professional “knocker-uppers” might use a pea shooter or a stick to tap on windows, alerting customers that it was near time for their factory shifts.
If another human had to wake you up, though, that usually meant that person had to stay up all night. But still, he or she needed to know when to sound the alarm. Enter the water clock. Ancient and medieval water clocks used water flow to show time passing. Water dripped out of or into bowls at a regular rate. Later, people also used sand hourglasses.
Mechanical clocks were invented in the Middle Ages. Gravity pulled weights down to run the clock, which were then wound back up for another cycle—every day. A whole village could hear bells strike the hours from a church or town belfry. Keeping the clock wound became an important job.
Over time, individuals owning their own personal clocks became more common. By the mid to late 1400s, some houses had their own heavy iron wall clocks. Many could ring a bell at a particular time.
In our modern lifestyles, clocks are essential for keeping track of time. But not everyone thinks about time exactly the same way. Some cultures, like many in the United States and Europe, see time as linear—it moves in a straight line toward the future. Being on time and following a schedule is very important to people who think this way. These cultures are called monochronic.
Other cultures, like many in Latin America and the Middle East, are more polychronic. People focus more on what they are doing, rather than the timeframe. In a polychronic culture, attendees might show up to a party or church service later than scheduled. And they might linger long after the event’s suggested ending time. These differences can cause confusion between cultures. But neither way of thinking is good or bad—just different.
People are created inside time. We’re also bound by it. We can’t travel back in time or jump ahead to the future. God works within time, but being “uncreated,” He is actually outside of it. Why? Because He created time. 2 Peter 3:8 tells us that God is not limited by time like His creatures are: “But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.”