Staff Columnist

Ashes to Ashes: The mausoleum of all hope and desire

Is it too early to start listening to Christmas music? I hope not, because I’m already bumping it in my car. I’m not sure I ever stopped listening to my holiday playlist when it became a regular in my rotation last November.

I find myself just baffled that we’re still in the middle of summer. How is this year not over already? I feel like I’ve aged a decade! Time seems to be inching, crawling, dragging on these last several months.

The passage of time is endlessly fascinating to me. The first time I really thought about it was in high school as I read “The Sound and the Fury” by William Faulkner.

There’s a passage from the book I’ve thought about nearly everyday since I first read it seven years ago. It’s about a watch and from the perspective of Quentin Compson, a boy coming into adulthood during the decline of the antebellum south.

As he’s counting the minutes as they pass, he looks at this watch that has been passed down through several generations in his family: “It was Grandfather’s and when Father gave it to me he said I give you the mausoleum of all hope and desire … I give it to you not that may remember time, but that you might forget it now and then for a moment and not spend all your breath trying to conquer it.”

If you haven’t read the book, you might want to skip the rest of this sentence, but Quentin ultimately kills himself, in part due to his obsession with time and his inability to let go of the past.

I think about how many people are like Quentin, attempting to conquer time, when really, time always conquers us. It will go on, even after we all cease to exist. I think about all the moments I’ve wished time would speed up or slow down.

It’s often hard to remember time is a constant, especially since it’s also relative. When we’re having fun, there’s never enough of it, and when we’re sitting through boring meetings, the minutes seem to take forever. Passing time can be excruciating or easy. As Quentin’s father aptly points out, time is most enjoyable when we forget about it completely.

The part of the passage I continue to try to understand is when the watch is described as “the mausoleum of all hope and desire.” I had to look up what a mausoleum is the first time I read it. According to Merriam-Webster, it refers to “a large tomb, usually a large stone building with places for entombment of the dead above ground.”

I’m split on exactly how to understand that sentence. Is Faulkner showing how this instrument we use to keep track of and document the passage of time is both a representation of infinite possibilities (hope and desire) and the harbinger of death (the mausoleum)? Or is he suggesting the watch inters and memorializes the possibility of hope and desire?

I tend to lean toward the first interpretation of the quote because it reminds me of the complexity of time — its many (seemingly) conflicting dualities. Time is a representation of progress and change and a reminder we are all on a slow march toward death.

But analysis of classic literature aside, I just kind of wish it were already Christmastime. I’ll never conquer time, but I can listen to Mariah Carey belt out “All I Want for Christmas,” in July. And that’s almost enough to make me believe the holiday season is just around the corner.