The Tower Clock. A Parable
June 4, 1847
1. The duke had a magnificent clock erected on a high tower in a city of our time. As the tower was octagonal, he had a clock face made on each of the eight surfaces which, of course, happened to be between the eight corners, so that everybody could see and make out the hours from all possible points and satisfy themselves about the hour, minute and second of the day.
2. And in addition to the most precise division of time from the hour to the second, this clock also showed the date of the month, the position of the moon and also the position of the other planets as well as the daily duration of light from sunrise to sunset and, besides that, also the four seasons. But, of course, all these special astronomic data were shown on separate astronomic dials which were installed underneath the main clock face.
3. And, in addition to all the things this clock showed on its faces, it also had a quite excellent striking mechanism for the hour and quarter of the hour and at the same time also the purest chimes. And for this whole extremely complicated elaborate mechanism, it had only one single clock weight. In a nutshell, this clock had no match anywhere in the whole civilized world.
4. But none of this is of any importance, nor was the fact that it served such varied purposes in such an extremely correct way; but that all these activities, which varied so much from each other, were all put into the most expedient motion by only one and the same clock weight, this was the real marvel of this clock.
5. When a stranger came into this city, this very visible clock immediately attracted his attention, and he asked the first available person approximately how many mainsprings and weights this clock had. When they told him: "Only one!", he was totally stunned and disbelieving and said: "This is impossible! So many and such various activities and only one drive? No, no, this does not work, this is impossible!"
6. Again another one came from afar and looked at the clock and greatly wondered when they explained to him all that the clock could perform. He thought each clock face should have its own driving mechanism which of course meant the tower would be connected to several different clocks. But when they explained to him that there was only one mechanism moving all the clock hands, he was totally upset because he thought that they were pulling a practical joke on him because of his ignorance, and he went away and did not inquire anymore about this clockwork.
7. And again, another one came from a foreign country and admired this clock and asked about the master of it, and they answered him: "The master craftsman of this clock was a very simple farmer, and it is not known whether he was able to read and write."
8. This correct answer terribly enraged the stranger, but he held his tongue about it and soon left because, as he felt, he had not come there in order to be treated as a stupid fool in such a gross manner.
9. And in this way, many of them came and asked as the first ones had, but when the townspeople wanted to let them into the secrets of this work of art, they all became angry and said: "Until we have seen this with our own eyes, we can’t believe it!"
10. And behold, they led them into the tower. But when they caught sight of the almost countless cogs there, the many levers, cylinders, hooks, rods and still a thousand other mechanical contraptions and connections, they were actually mad and shouted and screamed: "Who can figure out and comprehend this mechanism? No human being could have created it! It would take a hundred generations just to count all the components of this mechanism, let alone to create it!" And all these strangers went away, totally bewildered.
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