“I want you to build a grandfather clock for me,” he wrote. “The finest ever designed. Your fame is well-deserved, but this time you will surpass even your own limits. I want the clock that will prove how valuable my time is.”
The clockmaker accepted his terms and began to work. With the meticulous nature that had earned him his reputation, he created his masterpiece. Just before installing the final pieces in their place, his heart gave out and he died.
After the clockmaker’s funeral, his sons wrote a letter to the rich man, inquiring if he yet wanted the clock, at a reduced price. They ensured him that the craftsmanship was the finest they had ever seen.
The rich man agreed, and the clock was bundled and delivered to his home.
After his servants unwrapped the package, the rich man entered his study to see what his money had purchased. Everything about the tall clock was exquisite, but for one thing–
“This clock has no hands,” he said, clenching his fists. “Take it away.”
His servants protested momentarily, but he left the room without speaking further, except to order them to dispose of the clock and remove it from the room.
“A clock without hands is not a clock,” he said to himself in the hall.
At that moment, the clock began to play the loveliest music the servants had ever heard. Their eyes filled with tears as they swayed with the melody that signaled the beginning of another hour.
One hour later, the music began again, a different tune, but lovelier than the first. The servants asked the rich man if they might not keep the clock, if only for the music it played.
“What clock?” he shouted. “A clock keeps time. A clock without hands cannot be called a clock. It does not fulfill the purpose it was created for, and therefore I have no use for it. I see little potential in a machine with missing or deficient parts.”
And so the clockmaker’s masterwork was destroyed by the rich man’s servants. As they separated the structure into pieces, each of them hummed what they could recall of the lovely melodies they had heard.
Let’s talk: Is a clock without hands a clock? (and don’t try to trick with with digital watches or sun dials)
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Photo credit: stevendepolo