Friday, March 5, 2010

Quake Season

I think it's quite possible that many are getting a bit of a doomsday feeling after the earth shook with its fourth major quake last night, not to mention all the aftershocks that keep jolting frazzled nerves. Even after the recent tragedies in Haiti and Chile, each person sees earthquakes differently, some enjoy them like carnival rides while others interpret them as a sign of divine wrath or civilization gone awry. Friends of mine watched a quake ripple like a wave through a California parking lot, making them feel small and pitiful like fleas on the back of a dog.

What we are seeing seems incredibly threatening because of our finite view; the smallness of our perspective obscures the long history of fractures and realignments that have animated the globe since its formation, since the rise of the singular landmass Pangaea, long since broken into the massive islands we call continents, each thriving with different biomes in variable climates. Thousands of years from now, deep convection currents of magma will slowly have pushed these aggregations of crust to new positions on the globe, and new biospheres and species will rise from them in response to the whirl. Where we are now was once somewhere else, entirely.

I like being reminded of the plasticity that we take for solidity, the earth's need to flow, the stretch and groan of the massive, iron-rich creature who graciously hosts endless gorgeousness, but it does make me want to be ready to jump and make sure the roof over my head is well supported. I regret that our species, in thoughtless and heartless desperation, puts flimsy and dangerous ceilings over heads and tender bodies, not accounting for the forces of the massive being we live on, mistaking the vital for the static in typical materialistic fashion. It's these falling things that directly cause fatalities, not the earth's necessary adjustments to the pressures that build within and under continental shelves. Our sacred sphere needs to move and relieve building pressures, must search for flexibility and ever new equilibria, just as all living things make constant adjustments to find rest in moments of balance and rarefaction before coming into new situations of compression. That's life, from my experience, quaking on.


Anonymous said...

Earthquakes definitely prompt a response from us. The famed 1755 quake in Lisbon led to discussions of theology and helped spark aspects of the late Enlightenment.

I don't think these two will have anywhere near the same effect. Business as usual, sadly.

amarilla said...

Do I recall correctly that the Lisbon earthquake led Voltaire to ridicule the assertion that this world is the best possible? I loved Candide, but note that Voltaire's logic only holds on the assumption that life is better than death, something Zhuangzi and others have doubted. I think it might be true that both life and death could be truly wonderful or equally awful. But we don't know, do we?

Anonymous said...

Indeed, "the best of all possible worlds" is a repeated refrain in Voltaire's Candide, aimed squarely at Leibniz.

As for the life/death dichotomy, you got me there. Though my instincts as a good dualist (gnostic) suggest that life and death are neither fully wonderful or awful. All I know is that one is necessary to the other.