Jim Croce – Time in a Bottle

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The gentleness of this love song has been overshadowed by the events following its publication. It’s such a melancholy song about how fleeting life is, and how precious love is within the time we’re given, that it’s hard to not hear it in the context of Croce dying in a plane crash at the age of 30 only a year after this was released.

But even without intimations of mortality there is melancholy in the thought of how time passes, seasons change, fashions fade. It is sadness tinged with beauty, for awareness of how fleeting each moment is gives significance to each precious moment. It makes it possible to value the good times which otherwise would drown in the sea of eternity. The tragedy of immortality would be that eventually everything would become insignificant. No loss is really serious because new opportunities would keep coming, and no kiss would be unique after a few hundred years.

It is not specified what kind of times we would appreciate, but there is the implication of simplicity both in the lyrics and the arrangement. In the end it’s not the complex narratives and sophisticated symbols that matter the most, but simple gestures of intimacy and understanding: a fleeting smile in a crowd, a touch of hand at the moment of despair, an unexpected hug in the middle of chores. These become the pattern in the tapestry of time. They are not inevitable, but a matter of choice, which makes them all the more precious when you stay aware that two people are choosing the same pattern at the same time, choose to see and live life this way, together, sharing the same feeling, falling in love, falling inside these moments.

Such is the apparent contradiction in life: the more fleeting each moment is, the more we may find meaning in little things. And yet others may see it to be the opposite: if everything passes, everything is meaningless, an invitation to nihilism. Ultimately it’s a matter of choice, the perspective you find to be more pleasant. I do not even know which is better, since realizing that these two can be the same thing makes me think that the views can coexist in happiness. It is one way in which logic breaks, the opposites being true at the same time on the level of human experience. All because there’s the same foundation, the way we cannot control time, the stream of hours and our place in it like pieces of wood constantly adrift. And the appreciation of not having to go down the stream alone, at least not all the time.