Environmental science, traveling, and the sociology of the unraveling American dream.


If you're looking for more about me, I'm pretty much hanging out over at my livejournal these days. I use this account for commenting on other people's blogs.

Thursday, June 10, 2004

In a rock

I love rocks, and I'm starting to realize that people are wondering why. It's hard to explain, that's the thing. How can you not find a rock incredible? How can you not be amazed? But I'll give it a try.

Looking at a rock, you're looking at its history, at the world that existed, that had the conditions to create this rock, this particular rock, under those conditions. And you can get a glimpse, a shadowed look, at the eons and eons, the pressures, the ripping apart and melting and flowing inside the earth in the places we can go, in times we can never travel through-- but the whole history is still there. Sitting in your hand. In a rock.

One of my rocks is a pillow basalt. It came from a field trip, from an exposure on a hill overlooking a scenic grocery store. But think about how the rock formed: lava, flowing from a volcanic ridge under the sea, where light is never seen, where the water is miles deep, where the pressures are so high we'd be crushed in an instant, but where life still manages to thrive. Where lava forces itself out and cools from the outside in, leaving a pattern we can read, a pattern we can see, in a smooth cool basalt I can hold, heavy in my hand.

We're here on this planet, this big ball in the sky covered with oceans and forests and glaciers, with MoonPies and strip malls and Melrose Place, a hunk of accreted space dust with a chewy molten iron core. Because the planet's bigger than we can ever imagine, and smaller and more insignificant than we can ever know, and because we still mean something. Make things significant. We're here. And because despite this fact, despite the incredible and amazing and unbelievable fact that we're here, we somehow manage to overlook this, and go on merrily talking about the X-Files and how much mayonnaise was on our sandwich. And we can even make these things matter, because they mater to us.

And even sometimes, as we're letting the days flow by, we look up. And we realize-- maybe-- how incredible it is to be here. (How amazing it is that the rock is there. That the rock exists. That the conditions existed to make that rock exist, and me, and you.)

How can science cheapen the universe? It can only open up a deeper level of incomprehension, of the numinous, of wonder.

That-- is what I see in a rock.