Unreal Nature

September 11, 2015

Night Crawler

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:30 am

… His ministrations are a necessary part of the great round of existence …

This is from The Lost Notebooks of Loren Eiseley edited by Kenneth Heuer (2002, 1987):

… Man may, by now, be a highly sophisticated student of the pitfalls of semantics, a student of comparative religions, or an astrophysicist probing the mathematical abstractions of time and space. Nevertheless, it is still nature that concerns him as it concerned the Neanderthal. It is the vessel that contains man and in which he finally sinks to rest when his sun vanishes forever.

[ … ]

Earthworm
[image from Wikipedia]

The Formation of Vegetable Mould Through the Action of Worms was the first book to celebrate in any extended and considerate fashion the all-conquering, all-devouring worm that preoccupied seventeenth-century divines and had its ardent advocate in every pulpit. In those days the worm, the devil, and Jehovah each played a role in the drama of mortal man; the devil tempted, man succumbed, and the worm inherited his perishable mansion of clay. The Lord, it is true, would judge, but that was to be the last trump, and the grave and worm lay formidably in between.

[line break added to make this easier to read online] Few indeed were prepared for that final resurrection in their hearts. Though this drama remains muted in modern theology, the worm has never lost his fascination as a symbol of mortality, just as, in pre-Christian thought, the self-devouring dragon worm was Alpha and Omega — the beginning and the end. Yet such is the paradox of man that he would bait a fishhook with the creature who would confront him in his coffin and against whose terrors great vaults and mausoleums would be erected to this day.

If one strikes a shovel into topsoil anywhere, and particularly where the forces of nature have not left the naked bones and boulder fields of the planet exposed, one quickly traverses a thin layer of rich, black mold. Of that mold the earthworm, dew worm, angleworm, night crawler, as he has been variously called, is the primary inhabitant. Moreover, as befits a night crawler, he is to a very considerable degree the creator and enricher of that soil and therefore the enricher of life as well.

[line break added] If it is theologically true that there is the worm at work at the heart of things, it can also be said that though the worm has buried civilizations, he is also the sustainer of life. His ministrations are a necessary part of the great round of existence, and what passes through his gullet is taking a step once more on the road toward living substance.

My previous post from Eiseley’s book is here.

-Julie

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