book cover: Clock of the Long NowSteward Brand has a long history of thinking ahead, going all the way back to the Whole Earth Catalog. He also has a taste for symbols that communicate powerful truths: one example is his involvement in the Long Now Foundation with Danny Hillis, founder of Thinking Machines, which aims to build a clock that will run for 10,000 years. Another founder, musician Brian Eno, had an experience with a friend in New York that demonstrated how small our frame of reference typically is:

“I realized that the ‘here’ she lived in stopped at her front door …’Now’ meant ‘this week’. … No one had any investment in any kind of future except their own, conceived in the narrowest terms. I wrote in my noteback that December, “More and more I find I want to be living in a Big Here and a Long Now.”

Brand’s book is an eclectic mix of reflections on history, religion, what moves fast and slow in civilizations, digital permanence, book burnings, and Big Ben. It’s also chock-full of one-liners:

  • “Fast gets all our attention, slow has all the power.”
  • “The great problem of the future is that we die there.”
  • “The debt we cannot repay our ancestors we pay our descendants.”

I recommend Brand’s book as a helpful and readable reflection on the importance of the Long Now. The way we think about our actions definitely changes when we consider the long-term impact on the world our children will inhabit. Joel 1:3 is one of many passages in the Old Testament enjoining a long-term view by passing information across the generations: Joel’s response to the horrific plague of locusts he described was

Tell your children of it,
and let your children tell their children,
and their children to another generation. (Joel 1:3, ESV)

Christians, of all people, ought to be invested in a Long Now: an eternity in which we have only begun to live.