Somewhere deep in the mountainside of West Texas, a clock is currently being built. It is a massive undertaking into the future for what’s special about the clock is that it is designed to keep time for 10,000 years. As the founder of the project, Danny Hillis, describes it, “The century hand advances once every one hundred years, and the cuckoo comes out on the millennium. I want the cuckoo to come out every millennium for the next 10,000 years.” The cuckoo’s call after all has long been a placeholder for the passing of time, especially when we thought of it in seasons.Clock of the Long Now, also called the 10,000-year clock is as per the undertaking team, ‘a rare invitation to think and engineer at the timescale of civilization, hopes to ’embody deep time for people’ and ‘would do for thinking about time what the photographs of Earth from space have done for thinking about the environment’. As I read about it, I imagine it akin to standing by the ocean or looking up at a clear night full of galaxies and stars. We never quite get to see the largeness of time, to experience ourselves in its infinity.
When we first began formulating this space, one of the names that made it to our list jokingly was ‘Not a Goldfish’. It was a name that came up in response to a study by Microsoft that pointed to the phenomena of shockingly reduced human attention spans comparable to that of a goldfish – which is less than 9 seconds. We would often get asked to ‘pitch’ our ideas in five minutes, our thoughts in five slide powerpoint presentations and our emotions? Well they had no space in the mix. ‘Not a Goldfish’ was a name that arose in resistance to the constant dehumanising effects of winding our lives around smaller and smaller bits of time. How had we allowed ourselves to be whittled down to this? Which is why the 10,000 year clock delights me. Experiences of deep time put us in conversation with our fundamental ephemeral nature, it grounds us and reminds us of what is important and core to a life well lived, to a life that we may wish to create. It helps us chart a path we may take to living more meaningfully.
A harsh dark year is coming to an end. As we all begin to wind down, slip gently into the season of holidays and rest, we hope you will get a chance to extricate yourself from your day and step into deep time – to breathe, to be. At TCC, we take this chance to slow down and revisit conversations on healthy and sustainable cities – do join us in our social media spaces. Stay safe.