The Thousand Year Forest
deep time, experienced
in a sea of time, drawn swiftly by its currents,
Why is time so uniquely a human concern? Many of Earth's other creatures are swifter, stronger, more sensitive to light and odor, and remarkably intelligent. Some may even enjoy a sense of humor. But these animals live within time, not "for" time. What separates us from other animals is our ability to plan for the long term- to ponder "deep time" and anticipate how the future will effect the present.
This skill has served us well- constructing expensive sewer systems today to avoid cholera epidemics in the future. Evolving a moral system based on the "Golden Rule", whose teachings benefit the practitioner only if time permits the long hand of reciprocity to act. Buying insurance for our family and community, because we admit the world is uncertain, and the best laid plans are often laid aside.
Until recently. The modern, disposable society leaves little time or inclination for thinking about the future. We erect grand houses and offices, only to tear them down within a generation. The three hour symphony gives way to the three second sound bite, the credit card is preferred to the savings account, and we consume more dollars watching movies about killer meteors, than sponsoring research to avoid their impact.
The pace of life has undeniably increased, and with it the need to make faster and more informed decisions about the future. We are the first generation of people exercising powers traditionally left to God - - genetic modifications capable of saving lives, or redefining the very meaning of humanity. We can destroy the entire planet in a flash, or wisely shepherd the poor out of poverty. We can innovate with the tools and skills garnered from millennia of experience, or let circumstance be our guide.
We must learn to think twice, and act once. This is the purpose of TiWalkMe. TiWalkMe is a place where a thousand years can be experienced as a walk through an ever changing forest. A place to learn and share with others, to better judge and improve our plans before they drift into actions tethered to the past. A forest which is at heart an enormous clock, slowly ticking out the pace of life, resetting our own sense of time and space, with a horizon swept out to a millennia.
Time observed moves on many scales. A clock's hands directly marks the passage of time, but hands are just one measure among many. The flow of time emerges from a series of linked motions- the tic of the escapement every second, the rubbing of gear teeth every minute, the ringing of chimes every hour, the winding of the clock every week, the gathering of dust every year within its base, and the fading of the case in the sun over a lifetime. A clock measures time with its entire being, not just the rotation of hands along a circle of numbers.
The TiWalkMe Forest, its grounds, it buildings and ever changing landscape form a clock, together called the TiWalkMe Escapement. The Escapement is an immense timepiece, born as a sinuous, unplanted ribbon of land, carved into twenty long avenues separated by raised soil beds. In "Year 1" twenty seedlings, from a variety of species native to the region, are planted in a row. In Year 2, a second row of twenty seedlings are planted to join their older, taller siblings. And so on. Each year another row is added, and each year a small forest of trees, from large to small, makes their stately procession down the Escapement. A college student will have seen 20 trees planted in their lifetime- about the length of a football field. But turning towards the future, viewed down the length of the park, five miles of planting beds remain to be filled over the next 1000 years. The mind may not grasp deep time, but the feet will send a powerful image to the brain during the two hours it takes to walk the length of a millennia.
Like a mechanical clock, the TiWalkMe Escapement keeps a multiplicity of time. Each tick of the Escapement's mechanism begins at the planting of a new tree, ticking once again every time the tree flowers or sheds its leaves. Then, as the line of trees make their slow journey along the forest's grounds, the line itself is a hand moving across the face of the landscape. The front of the line marks the current time, while the end of the line (where the oldest tree has died) marks a natural lifespan. Within each tree is another clock, encircling the trunk in a familiar pattern of rings. When a tree dies, the wood is saved, sliced and joined in sequence to the rings from earlier specimens. This wooden stream echoes a pulse from the living forest, and is used to decorate the forest greenhouse and museum.
The past observed moves on many scales as well. Once reset by the Escapement, time's perspective helps visitors rethink their understanding of history, and shape our prospects for the future. But intuition must be coupled with facts if we are to appreciate the lessons of the past.
This is the second role of the TiWalkMe. Gathered for the use of all visitors within the Foundation's library and mediation center, is a history of culture interpreted by skilled teachers and mediators. How long does it take to settle a boundary dispute by war? What is the cost of malnutrition around the world? How many generations must pass before enemies become friends? Where will a dollar invested today bring the greatest societal return for the future?
Deep time. Historical perspective. While the future is never ours to control, with these tools, it can be nudged in a better direction.
Please browse this site to learn more about TiWalkMe, and perhaps someday soon, browse the Escapement in person.
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