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Church bells, monastery bells, garden bells, handbells, alarm bells, electric bells, cowbells, jingle bells, ships’ bells, ice cream truck bells, and so many more—seems like bells have always been around. And indeed, they have. In 2000 BCE, with the advancement of metallurgy in ancient China, bells began to appear, slowly infusing themselves into its culture, religion, and way of life. Neighboring countries followed suit.

In addition to various weights of metals, today’s craftsmen produce bells in wood, glass, pottery, and stoneware.

When struck, their sound quickens us, instantly modifies our worlds and rouses feelings: joy, sorrow, fear, dread, order, or inspiration. As the strains fade from awareness, we return to our familiar world, and, if wise, savor the intrusion and learn from it.

Why do bells affect us so? On a deeper level, we consider their symbolic meaning: a universal means of communicating truth—As if the bell’s tongue carries a divine summons to pay attention. And as the poet Mary Oliver reminds us, “Be astonished! Tell about it!”

Time is passing.

 

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