What is the value of that last grain of sand in the hourglass? It seems more important than the first, since it is decisive, an indisputable end. It draws great attention and energy, carrying thoughts of its portent. In one situation it says, Time’s up! You’re done or, You’ve failed. I’ve won! I’ve lost! Perhaps it says, You did it with a moment to spare! In another situation it says, It’s over, at last. In whatever situation, the hourglass’s last grain to fall marks a conclusion.
What percentage of a minute, of a second, does that last grain of sand represent? Do they all represent the same amount of time? Or should we consider the last grain as a representative of the full hour, or half hour, or minute that the hourglass measures?
Flip over the hourglass. The first grain that falls through seems more important than the next. Does the weight of all the other grains add pressure to the literal gravity, making it fall faster than the last? Does the last grain just mosey on down through the center, feeling no pressure? Gravity is a constant, and free falling objects accelerate at 9.8 meters per second per second, according to my friend Scott, who teachers physics. He says that every surface a grain of sand encounters creates friction, a force that slows down and stops motion.
Friction increases or decreases based on two factors: the two surfaces involved and how hard those surfaces are pressed together. But sand in an hour glass performs more like a fluid than like a free falling object.
Instead of the last grain of sand, let’s look at the last child in a string of, say, seven. In this exploration, the mother is the hourglass, and the seven children, the grains of sand dropped from her womb over the nine years she spent (mostly) pregnant. Was there more pressure on that first child? Did he or she bear the weight of expectations for a successful future solely on his or her shoulders, in case there were no more to follow? Was there more pressure on the mother with regard to the first child for similar reasons? Is the last child less pressured than the first child was, free from the pressures and energy of new parents and grandparents? Is that last child freer to be herself or himself than the first? Or is the same pressure exerted over all, as with the grains of sand.