A man is building a clock in the West Texas Mountains that will keep time for 10,000 years. It is a 10,000 year clock, and the foundation supporting this enterprise is called The Long Now.
It is written about the clock–
Designed by Danny Hillis, the Clock is designed to run for ten millennia with minimal maintenance and interruption. The Clock is powered by mechanical energy harvested from sunlight as well as the people that visit it. The primary materials used in the Clock are marine grade 316 stainless steel, titanium and dry running ceramic ball bearings. The entire mechanism will be installed in an underground facility in west Texas.
Why is this man building a clock that will keep time for 10,000 years? Well, why does any man do anything? Why did they climb Everest? Why do they go down to the sea in ships? Why do they tramp the Arctic?
But this man, why is he building a long now clock?
I wanted a symbol of the future, in the same way that the pyramids are a symbol of the past. I wanted to build something that gave us that sense of connection.
I’m Danny Hillis and I’m building a clock that will last for 10,000 years. ..One of the ways we keep the clock accurate is that we synchronize it to the sun… Exactly at solar noon the chimes begin to play. … They worked out a way of ringing ten bells in a different sequence each day, for ten thousand years. … We’re invested in generational thinking, and answering the question, ‘were we good ancestors?’
There’s a problem of people not believing in the future, a long-term clock challenges those short-term civilizational stories. I’m very optimistic about the future. I’m not optimistic because I think our problems are small. I’m optimistic because I think our capacities are great.
Oh. I see. Like the Tower of Babel.
To see the Clock you need to start at dawn, like any pilgrimage. Once you arrive at its hidden entrance in an opening in the rock face, you will find a jade door rimmed in stainless steel, and then a second steel door beyond it. These act as a kind of crude airlock, keeping out dust and wild animals. You rotate its round handles to let yourself in, and then seal the doors behind you. It is totally black. You head into the darkness of a tunnel a few hundred feet long. At the end there’s the mildest hint of light on the floor. You look up. There is a tiny dot of light far away, at the top of top of a 500 foot long vertical tunnel about 12 feet in diameter. There is stuff hanging in the shaft.
And they said to one another, “Come, let us make bricks, and burn them thoroughly.” And they had brick for stone, and bitumen for mortar. 4Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth.” (Genesis 9:3-4)
The first part of the Clock you encounter on the ascent up the spiral staircase is the counterweights of the Clock’s drive system. This is a huge stack of stone disks, about the size of a small car, and weighing 10,000 pounds. Depending on when the clock was last wound, you may have to climb 75 feet before you reach the weights.
You keep climbing. For the next 70-80 feet of ascent you pass 20 huge horizontal gears (called Geneva wheels), 8 feet in diameter, each weighing 1,000 pounds. This is the mechanical computer that calculates the over 3.5 million different melodies that the chimes will ring inside the mountain over the centuries.
And the LORD came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of man had built. 6And the LORD said, “Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language, and this is only the beginning of what they will do. And nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them. 7Come, let us go down and there confuse their language, so that they may not understand one another’s speech.” (Genesis 9:5-7)
This is what happens when man worships created things instead of the Creator. Man has an inherent notion of time. Man knows he is in a great slip-stream current of time, connected to those who have passed before us and linked to those yet to come. That is because God has put eternity into man’s heart. (Ecclesiastes 3:11). Man seeks the great questions, desires to know the end of things, wants to achieve greatness under the sun- or on the plains of Shinar.
The 10,000 year clock’s design and these beginning moments of its construction are truly remarkable. That men could design such a thing does seem to indicate a nearly bottomless well of capacity for accomplishment. Yet man’s capacity is only as deep or as long as the Holy God allows it, as we know the end of the story of the Tower of Babel. What the 10,000 year clock really is, is a monument to man. What a shame to use all that money, time, skill, and labor for something that is really an ode to man.
What blessings he has given us to enter His courts and see the angelic beings with wheels within wheels, TRUE machinery that lasts ten thousand upon tens of thousands of years, eternities. What greatness He has bestowed on us to hear the trumpet and harps and worship songs that are the chimes of heaven.
In Jesus we have the eternal questions answered. We know that we know we are in His slip-stream of time and in the current that is endless and infinite. We know we are good ancestors because He is our father, the root ancestor, having in us His greatness. Apart from Him we can do nothing, but in Him we can do whatever His will allows and sustains in us to do. From man’s perspective, the clock in the mountain in West Texas is a remarkable thing. It really is. Personally, I’m in awe of it and wonderstruck at the men who are creating it. From God’s perspective it is a mote on a gnat on a flea. My true awe is of the God who invented time. What a blessing He gave His children the eternal answers. We do not have the restlessness of clockmakers, but possess an eternal peace. In Him, in heaven, there is no time, and no need for clocks.