The Hourglass

The Hourglass

Rafael Funes – September 21, 2015

"Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic", Sir Arthur C. Clarke.


More than three thousand years ago a young Phoenician man departed from the coast in his little boat. He was very excited as this was his first trip alone. In the distance some threatening clouds were seen, but the young man ignored them and headed for the destiny that he had drawn. Some time passed and the sea began to curl. When he tried to return to its port it was too late and the storm caught him. After many attempts to maintain control of his boat the storm beat him. He lost the balance and his head was knocked unconscious, at the mercy of the waves and the force of the storm.

Gradually he awoke from what seemed an eternity, and found that he had survived. He was in a very beautiful beach which seemed deserted. After becoming aware and with very poor forces he began to explore it. He walked north to reach a clump of rocks that prevented him from continuing. He retraced his steps and headed south-west. The beach was beyond where his eyes could see.

After a couple of days of eating some fruit and hydrating with some coconuts, he was gaining strength. He decided to explore the northern massif and saw some crabs that promised to be a more substantial meal, but he had neither the skills nor the strength to catch them. Suddenly he saw a flash in the rocks and he decided to move towards it. He found an object that was unknown to him. Two cones made of a transparent material, it was not entirely familiar but not strange either. The two cones joined at the apex were full of sand, very similar to the one at the beach where he had landed after the storm. The structure, which was no more than eight inches high, was protected by two wooden circles as bases for the cones and six poles together, of the same material.

The young man took the object, which had all the sand in one of the cones and immediately the wind stopped, the birds remained static in the air and crabs stopped moving. The time had stopped. He turned the object until the sand began to flow from one to another of the cones and everything returned to normal. The birds followed its course, crabs kept moving and the wind blew again. He walked back to his makeshift camp and placed the hourglass on a small rock. When the upper cone was empty time went running normally. His curiosity led him to hold back the hourglass and time stopped at that moment. As soon as he stopped touching it, the time returned to normal.

The next day he started playing with his great discovery and learned that if he inverted the clock when it still had sand on top, time went back but he remembered everything that had happened. So he learned from the many mistakes committed and the second, third or fourth time he did something, he had quite mastered it. The only limitation was that he could only return a few hours, depending on how much sand was at the bottom of the hourglass at the time of inverting it. He realized that if he placed the clock diagonally, time for others went normally, but he could do two, three or four times more in that same time.

Thus passed a few weeks on the island, until he built a new sailing boat. Once he was oriented, he sailed to try to return home. After many adventures, multiple returns over time, changes in direction and learning, he came to his home port.

He left his makeshift boat on the shore and went home to his family to let them know he had returned. They, of course, were happy to have him back. However, the desire of the young man to return to sea, led him to enlist in the crew of a merchant ship. During the many months of sailing he cleverly used his great treasure. Learning at a speed that surprised the rest of the crew. Correcting many of the errors committed in their daily work. And of course, doing more and better job than others in the same time.

After three years, during which he made many trips, he had made enough money to buy his own boat. He recruited the best marine and launched into business in the Mediterranean. Arriving at increasingly distant lands, he brought extraordinary goods for which their customers were willing to pay a higher price. He skillfully negotiated, always keeping his costs under control and leaving higher profits than their competitors. Being a just man, he generously rewarded his people. Nobody could understand how his ship, which was much like everyone else, did longer tours in less time.

A few years later he met a beautiful woman with whom he fell in love and decided to start a family. As he missed her a lot, he did his trips with great effectiveness and efficiency, to return and spend more time with her and their children. As time does not pass in vain, one day he realized he had aged, and his two sons, thanks to his frequent presence, had grown as good people.

He called them and shared with them the secret of his success. He made them reflect on the enormous value that the proper use of the hourglass will bring to those who use it to their benefit and that of others. He asked them to take advantage of the time and the thing that really matter. To devote as much time for themselves as for their families. Once committed to share it and care for their mother until the end, he gave them the hourglass for them to grow their merchant businesses for many years.