Choose any hour on the clock.

“Choose any hour on the clock. It is possible, then, to conceive that the clock’s purpose is to return the hands back to that time, a time which, from the moment chosen, the hands leave and skate across the rest of the clock’s painted signs and calibrations and numbers. These other markings on the face become irrelevant in the themselves; they are now simply clues point in the direction of the chosen time. It is then possible, too, to conceive of the clock’s gears and springs as each having its own intrinsic function, but within a whole mechanism, the larger purpose of which is to return to the chosen time. In this manner, the clock resembles the universe. For is it not true that our universe is a mechanism consisting of celestial gears, spinning ball bearings, solar furnaces, all cooperating to turn man (and, indeed, what other, unimagined neighbors of whom we are ignorant!) to that chosen hour we know of from the Bible as Before the Fall? And as an ignorant insect crawling across the face of that clock, who see not the whole face, the full cycle of numbers, the short hand and the long (which pass in his sky with predictable orbits, cast familiar shadows, offer reassurance through their very repetitions, but which ultimately, puzzle and beg for the consideration of deeper mysteries), but who merely treads over the surface which hides the greater gear train and the spring without any but the most indirect conception of what lies beneath, so does man squirm and fret on the dusty skin of our earth, ignorant of the purpose of the world, indeed, the cosmos, beyond the fact that there is one, assigned by God and known only to Him, and that it is good and that it is terrifying and that it is ineffable and that only rational faith can soothe the desperate pains and woes of our magnificent and depraved world. It is that simple, dear reader, that logical, and that elegant.”

This quote from The Resonable Horologist  contained within Tinkers by Paul Harding is one of the many joys of spending the short amount of time it would take to read. This past Thursday, I took a trip up to Powell’s in Portland to see Harding read from the book and take questions. There were only about 40 of us in the room and it was an insightful and wonderful time with the author. His reading was a passionate act coming from the book and he was extremely kind in answering our questions.

I asked him about the role Karl Barth and Jonathan Edwards play for him in writing and reading. In response, he talked about his wonderful teacher, Marilynne Robinson (and one of my favorite authors). As a skeptic of faith he realized that if he asked her about where her writing came from and why she wrote one of the most important reasons she would give is her faith. And because of her influence he felt that he should give those writers his time as well. When he did that he found some of the most interesting and beautiful reflections on the world that he had ever read. This, he said, is even clear in the Bible and that its story was ruined by people putting numbers all over it (chapters and verses).

All in all, it was worth the trip and I would recommend taking the time to read Tinkers.


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