“Time” and Eternity

The Angelus bells were ringing a few days ago as I walked to Mass, and I couldn’t help but think of the lyrics to Pink Floyd’s “Time.”

Far away, across the field,
Tolling on the iron bell
Calls the faithful to their knees
To hear the softly spoken magic spells.

(I don’t think I’d call the Mass “magic spells,” but the rhyming works, so I’ll forgive them.)

The song itself is a lamentation over a life wasted. The band employs the beautifully tragic imagery of a man chasing the sunset, only to find that his efforts are in vain. The most obvious rhetoric of the piece is that we ought to make the most of life.

However, a subtler message of the piece is this: the man in the song hears the church bells, but he is far away. Though some part of him may want to be reconciled with God, he feels that he is so far removed (likely through his own doing) that he has no hope. Rather than renouncing his flaws, he embraces them, and resigns himself to “The Great Gig in the Sky.”

But this afterlife is not the Christian conception of Heaven. Rather, I suspect that the dark side of the moon represents an afterlife much more akin to the one we see in Homer’s Odyssey, populated by empty and regretful shades. It is a place (metaphorically speaking) without light, which symbolizes God’s grace.

In the final song of the album, “Eclipse,” we hear that “the sun is eclipsed by the moon.” The empty afterlife represented by the dark side of the moon separates our transient life on earth from the constant and eternal, which is the sun. The song ends with the nearly inaudible line, “There is no dark side of the moon, really. As a matter of fact, it’s all dark.” In other words, there is no afterlife in communion with God. It is all dark.

Yes, I’d say “Time” carries the central theme of the album, which is that we ought to enjoy every minute of this life, because there is no real life after life. The Dark Side of the Moon is one of my favorite albums, but it seems to me that its message is nihilism.

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About Emmett Hall

I'm a seminarian for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Dallas, working on a theology degree at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome. My views are solely my own, based on a reasonable grounding in the Western Tradition, and subject to correction if necessary. They do not necessarily reflect the views of my employer or any institution with which I am associated.
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