Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Set Sail

The Evensong, reentering St. Anthony Harbour.
I have been pondering the universe quite a bit lately because there were three hard days of rain and my rule is to never drive in the rain. And when it is sunny I like to hike or read. So that doesn't leave much time to drive. That's what I'll tell the border police when I get there.

Anyway, I've been reading Annals of the Former World by John Mcphee and it has helped me gain some perspective. You see, the earth is 4.5 billion years old. Now, to put that in perspective I tried to develop a ration I could comprehend. I'll leave it to you to check my math.

There are 250 million seconds in the lifespan of an 80 year old person.
So, in the eyes of the earth an 80 year span is 1/16th of a second.

To put it another way, in the eyes of the earth, one second equals 1280 years.

Or another way, expecting the earth to care about what happens during Post Ice Age mankind is like expecting a person born in 731 A.D. (and is alive today) to remember a single time they blinked their eye.

It's not easy to grasp. Mcphee puts it this way, "IF you stretch your arms out on both sides of you and called that distance TIME, the whole of human history would exist at the last 1/4 of an inch of one fingernail.

So, are we to be nihilists and throw up our hands to the whim of the monkey within us? Or are we to be pragmatists and survive as best we can? OR are we to be capitalists and see others as a resource to make our lives more secure?

I was going to say that I want to "put my tools down, to lock the garage, to wash up" in the sense that these questions have worn on me for 20 years like the sea wears down 200 million old limestone. I want to think I am the sea and the questions are being worn down but it is the other way around. My tools (my brain) needs to be replaced because it can not break the question itself. It is my nature to get to the bottom of things. It irks be that one exhaust gasket failed while the other one was fine. Does that mean the plugs were firing less completely on one side? Or is the extra bend in the exhaust change the draw effect? Or is there another hidden cause within the cylinders? I want to get to the bottom of this, "To sand down the rough edges of the world," as my brother once accused me...and he was right. I want to put these tools down and move on to the book I have imagined myself writing about the calamity in Santa Cruz. But the language I've developed to write that book, the process of developing that language, is hard to stop. The experiment is complete, the language is mine alone, but I can't put the tools down and close up the shop. The larches are turning gold in the Humber valley. Maybe that will be my answer to come in from the waves.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

John McPhee is, hands down on the pavement bent at the waist, one of my favorite writers. Mundane into prose.

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Man in the Van by Oggy Bleacher is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License.