The Tao produces unity, unity produces duality, duality produces trinity, and the triad produces all things.


THOUSANDS OF TIME CAPSULES still awaiting recovery, records of their emplacements lost, are reportedly "out there," lost in the field, but even more irretrievably lost to memory.

The capsule must be located in a place that can be reasonably expected to remain in existence one thousand years from now. In determining this location, we propose to embed it into a rich tissue of memories made up of traditions and rites themselves anchored in an architectural Manhattan landmark morelikely to withstand a thousand years of tribulations than most others.

One of our goals therefore has been to embed the capsule within a tradition which, in spite of radical social and cultural transformations likely to occur, is unlikely to abandon the present calendar and the memory of the year 3000. That, of necessity, is a Christian church whose very temporal life is governed by the present calendar and traces its origin to the event marking the beginning of our present time reckoning. We do not mean to favor or provide "pride of place" to Christianity among the hundreds of other religions of mankind, many of which also enjoy rich histories and significant numbers of adherents. Practical considerations, however, played the major part in our decision to place our memorial in this location.

History shows that in spite of wars, pestilences, revolutions and other calamities, European Gothic cathedrals have stood for more than 800 years with their stained glass and some of their treasures and bells still intact. Even some clockworks of the 1300's are still functioning in Rouen. More ancient monuments - Romanesque abbeys and churches - have passed the thousand years mark, and numerous buildings of Roman and Greek origin are still with us, not to mention the Egyptian Pyramids and pre-Celtic megaliths. But the surest location, as the Vedas attest, is still the human mind: the long thread of memory, knowledge and light that leads on one side to the "blinding point of rupture of which there is no memory," and on the other, to the yet unformed, unfathomable and unforeseeable future of the generations yet to be.

The present calendar on which we so proudly benchmark days, weeks, months, years, centuries and millennia is based on an event really meaningful to Christians only. However, whether the result of manifest destiny or accident of history, the worldwide Western dominance over commerce and culture which naturally imposed this calendar on all who would live in the "modern" world may be but "a glitch in time." Compared with the much longer and, from some viewpoints, richer history of China, for instance, who could guarantee that a thousand years hence, the world may not be running according to the Chinese or some other calendar, even a new one based on an event as yet not happened?

Were the geographic locus of the project to be centered elsewhere than New York City (and, more widely, the United States and the Western world), the search for an appropriate location for such a capsule might well be driven by other considerations, traditions and philosophies.

We propose that the capsule(s) be located on the grounds of a church and made part of a ritual - meaningful not only to the religious community within which it is held, but to the secular community in which that church resides.

That is why we have chosen the Cathedral of St. John the Divine. It is in New York City and it is sacred ground, as the terms of the competition specify. New York´s Cathedral of St. John the Divine describes itself as the largest Gothic-style cathedral in the world. "The Statue of Liberty would fit comfortably under its central dome. ... Seat of the Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of New York and the Diocesan Mother Church," it is chartered as a "house of worship for all peoples...." As a cathedral pamphlet puts it,

Conceived as the centerpiece of an American Acropolis in the lively west side neighborhood set between Lincoln Center and Harlem, it stands within a few blocks of such landmarks as Columbia University, Barnard College, Grant's Tomb and Riverside Church.

The magnificent cathedral is a monument to the diversity and energy of New York. ... The Chapel of Tongues represents seven immigrant people and five centuries of Architecture. ... More than 150 stained glass windows depict not only religious scenes, but also a 1925 prototype television. ... The Great Bronze Doors, cast in the same studio as the Statue of Liberty, are comprised of sixty panels in bas-relief which depict scenes from the Old and New Testaments.

The Cathedral Art Treasures, given by leaders and friends from around the world, include twin Menorahs (each 12 feet high) donated by Adolph Ochs, the founder of the New York Times; a pair of ornate cloisonné vases from Emperor Hirohito of Japan; etc....

The Cathedral of St. John the Divine, like a medieval cathedral, serves as a center of inspiration, education and outreach for the whole city of New York.

St. John the Divine is a living Cathedral bringing harmony out of the incredible diversity of New York.

The cathedral itself is an encapsulation of time: through its architecture, its treasures and its functions, the church carries forward a tradition more than millenary. Dedicated to St. John the Divine, author of Revelations, it hosts in its architecture the rich numerology that the Apocalypse writer so profusely interspersed in his text.

It is in this tradition that we want to integrate our proposed time capsule. It is doubly fitting in the millenarian context of the Revelations. Such background and qualifications eminently dispose the Cathedral of St. John the Divine to this project. Preliminary discussions with the Dean of the Cathedral, the Very Reverend Harry H. Pritchett, Jr., were extremely encouraging.

Copyright © 1999 The Cooper Union