How often does the clock of your life “tick?” For some of us in the hospital world one tick a second is way too slow, especially for those managing information technology and bouncing electrons bearing patient data around the city and to our remote hosting center in Kansas City. Yesterday our link went down for a nano or two which made for a very bad day. Usually our budget cycle ticks once a year, but this year we’re needing to find about $20 million in cost savings mid year as our expected pattern of reimbursements and balance of out and in patients is different that expected. Some aspects of the life of the system tick once a decade when fundamental strategic choices are made about where to build or rebuild a major facility (downtown or in the burbs?). In our IHP Institute for Public Health and Faith, we teach leaders to focus on a half-generation vision—about 14 yeras. For a mom sitting next to the bed of our sick kids life is marked by the drip, drip, drip of the meds flowing into the veins.
Danny Hillis, one of our generation’s wise geniuses who happens to be the kid of former missionaries, Bill and Argye Hillis. So he tends to think about things that are more important than the average genius. He wrote a landmark article in Wired in 1995 (http://www.longnow.org/projects/clock/#clockessay) in which proposed a millennium clock that would help us see the “long now” in which we live by phenomenon measured in decades, centuries and millennium. Tick (wait a thousand years) tick (wait another thousand) tick…… (http://www.longnow.org/projects/clock/ )
Hillis tells the story of the new dining room (built in 1386) where the craftsmen built expecting it to last for one of the thousand year ticks. When the room had to be repaired in the late 1800’s the new new carpenters used the oak trees their original brothers has planted for just that purpose. Imagine the life of those original workers, who lived in a thousand year web of blessing where trees have a chance to grow. No wonder they built with a quality admired across centuries! Such quality reflects the life of the craftspeople and their life reflects the web of life that held them up.