Sunday, April 15, 2007

The snake

Visitors to Dekalb Junction in St. Lawrence County, which is waaay upstate New York, will be familiar with this twisted piece of frozen magma, which is locally referred to as the snake.

It's a terrific example of the remarkable things that go on in rock when it's hot- as most of the interior of our planet is, starting not very far down.

We tend to forget that we live on a very thin crust of cooled rock. 99% of the rock on this planet is hot, molten, and seething with movement. Our impression of rock as a static substance is at complete odds with the facts.

In fact, most of our perception of nature is formed inside a very narrow band, where much of what we observe and take to be the status quo is anything but. Another good example: the vast majority of the organisms on this planet, both by numbers and by weight, are tiny creatures living under its crust. We don't ever even see them, although--as some geologists might tell you-- it's entirely possible that the oil we use every day is a by product of their life cycle, given the very extraordinary amounts of it that we find under the surface.

So we don't see the status quo on earth: we see a small, special set of conditions and we presume that's informative as to what is normal. And we owe a very great deal to what we do not see.

Our lives are much like this. We each see a tiny slice of all the things that go on on during life on this planet and try to draw conclusions about it, not remembering that everything we see is fragmentary, partial, divided: just the surface of a molten pool that has hardened in front of us. This normal, "ordinary" life is a thin crust we skate on. We're always separated from the incandescent reality of what our situation is by this thin crust. It lulls us to sleep. We don't understand how uncertain, how fluid everything is: we do not see that we inhabit a landscape of perpetual change.

Instead we grasp the few frozen icons that protrude above the surface and adopt them as sacred; in our desperate attempts to worship some kind of permanence, everything becomes a graven image. Even things that we declare are not graven images become graven in the act of declaration.

Let us hope we can, at times, refer ourselves to the ground under our feet--

and accept the fact that it is prone to change.

May your trees bear ripe fruit and your wells yield cool water-

Lee

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