Unreal Nature

May 17, 2015

Through Silence

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:47 am

… the evidence of a particular silence reaches us like a surprise that is not always a repose: a perceptible silence, sometimes masterly, sometimes proudly indifferent, sometimes agitated, animated and joyful.

This is from the essay ‘Death of the Last Writer’ found in The Book to Come by Maurice Blanchot (1959; 2003):

… it is a langauge: it speaks, it doesn’t stop speaking, it is like the void that speaks, a light murmuring, insistent, indifferent, that is probably the same for everyone, that is without secret and yet isolates each person, separates him from the others, from the world and from himself, leading him through mocking labyrinths, drawing him always farther away, by a fascinating repulsion, below the ordinary world of daily speech.

The strangeness of this langauge is that it seems to say something, while it might be saying nothing. Further, it seems that profundity speaks in it, and the unprecedented makes itself heard. To each person, although it is surprisingly cold, without intimacy and without felicity, it seems to say what would be closest to him if only he could fix it in place for an instant. It is not deceptive, for it promises and says nothing, always speaking for one person alone, but impersonal, speaking entirely inwardly, but it is the outside itself, present in the single place where, by hearing it, we could hear everything, but it is nowhere, everywhere; and silent, for it is silence that is speaking, that has become this false speech that we do not hear, this secret speech without a secret.

How to silence it? How to hear it, how not to hear it?

… A writer is one who imposes silence on this speech, and a literary work is, for one who knows how to penetrate it, a rich resting place of silence, a firm defense and a high wall against this eloquent immensity that addresses us by turning us away from ourselves.

… Before any great work of plastic art, the evidence of a particular silence reaches us like a surprise that is not always a repose: a perceptible silence, sometimes masterly, sometimes proudly indifferent, sometimes agitated, animated and joyful. And the true book is always something of a statue. It arises and organizes itself like a silent power that gives form and firmness to silence and through silence.

[ … ]

… This unspeaking speech very much resembles inspiration, but it is not confused with it; it leads only to that place unique to each person, the hell into which Orpheus descends, place of dispersion and conflict, where he must all of a sudden face up to things and find, in himself, in it and in the experience of all art, what transforms powerlessness into power, turns error into a path and unspeaking speech into a silence from which it can truly speak and allow the origin to speak in it …

… There are, of course, many ways (as many as there are styles and works of art) to master the language of the desert.

… There is … chatter and what has been called interior monologue, which does not in the least, as we well know, reproduce what a man says to himself, for man does not speak to himself, and the deepest part of man is not silent but most often mute, reduced to a few scattered signs. Interior monologue is a coarse imitation, and one that imitates only the apparent traits of the uninterrupted and incessant flow of unspeaking speech. Let us recall that the strength of this speech is in its weakness; it is not heard, which is why we don’t stop hearing it; it is as close as possible to silence, which is why it destroys silence completely. Finally, interior monologue has a center, the “I” that brings everything back to itself, while that other speech has no center; it is essentially wandering and always outside.

… This language must for a moment be forgotten, so as to be born by a triple metamorphosis as a true speech: that of the Book …

My most recent previous post from Blanchot’s book is here.

-Julie

http://www.unrealnature.com/

 

May 16, 2015

Measuring

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:42 am

… it teaches no copybook moral, no ecological or social lesson.

This first is from the essay ‘The Stranger’s Path’ found in Landscape in Sight: Looking at America by John Brinckerhoff Jackson; edited by Helen Lefkowitz Horowitz (1997):

As one who is by way of being a professional tourist with a certain painfully acquired knowledge of how to appraise strange cities, I often find myself brought up short by citizens remarking that I can’t really hope to know a town until I have seen the inside of one of its homes. I usually agree, expecting that there will then ensue an invitation to their house and a chance to admire one of these shrines of local culture, these epitomes of whatever it is the town or city has to offer. All that follows is an urgent suggestion that I investigate on my own the residential quarter before I presume to form a final opinion. “Ours is a city of homes,” they add. “The downtown section is like that anywhere else, but our Country Club Heights” — or Snob Hill or West End or European Section or Villa Quarter, depending on where I am — “is considered unique.”

I have accordingly set out to explore that part of the city, and many are the hours I have spent wandering through carefully labyrinthine suburbs, seeking to discover the essential city, as distinguished from that of the tourist or transient. In retrospect, these districts all seem indistinguishable: tree- and garden-lined avenues and lanes, curving about a landscape of hills with pretty views over other hills; the traffic becomes sparser, the houses retreat further behind tall trees and expensive flowers; every prospect is green, most prosperous and beautiful. The latest-model cars wait on the carefully raked driveway or at the immaculate curb, and there comes the sound of tennis being played. When evening falls, the softest, most domestic lights shine from upstairs windows; the only reminder of the nearby city is that dusty pink glow in the sky which in any case the trees all but conceal.

Yet why have I always been glad to leave? Was it a painful realization that I was excluded from these rows and rows of (presumably) happy and comfortable homes that has always ended by making me beat a retreat to the city proper? Or was it a conviction that I had actually seen this, experienced it, relished it after a fashion countless times and could no longer derive the slightest spark of inspiration from it? Ascribe it if you like to a kind of sour grapes, but in the course of years of travel I have come to believe that the home, the domestic establishment, far from being a unique symbol of the local way of life, is essentially the same wherever you go. The lovely higher-income residential zone of Spokane is, I suspect, hardly to be distinguished (except for a few interesting but not very significant architectural variations) from the corresponding zone of Oslo or Naples or Rio de Janeiro.

The next is from Jackson’s essay ‘Looking at New Mexico':

… Which comes first: the blessing or the prayer? It is not easy in this landscape to separate the role of man from the role of nature. The plateau country has been lived in for centuries, but the human presence is disguised even from the camera’s eye. There are ruins like geological formations, disorders of tumbled stone. These are immense arrays of slowly crumbling rocks that look like ruins. The nomenclature we Americans have imposed on much of the landscape testifies to our uncertainty: the ruins have unpronounceable Navajo names; the natural formations are called Gothic Mesa or Monument Valley or Chimney Rock.

It is the sort of landscape which (before the creation of the bomb) we associated with the world after history had come to an end: sheep grazing among long-abandoned ruins, the lesson of Ozymandias driven home by orating events no one had ever heard of, symbols of the vanity of human endeavor waiting to be photographed. But is that really the message of the plateau country? There was a time, several generations ago, toward the end of the last century when photographers, masters of their art, had a clearer vision: they wanted to leave history, even human beings, out of their pictures. Perhaps there were technical reasons for wishing to exclude all movement, or perhaps it was a matter of belief, a way of responding to the concept of time in the Colorado Plateau. For what makes the landscape so impressive and so beautiful is that it teaches no copybook moral, no ecological or social lesson. It tells us that there is another way of measuring time, and that the present is, in fact, an enormous interval in which even the newest of man-made structures are contemporary with the primeval.

My previous post from Jackson’s book is here.

-Julie

http://www.unrealnature.com/

 

May 15, 2015

Driven to the Wall

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:38 am

… Only after their triumphant planetary radiation is something new observed to have arisen in solitude and silence.

This is from the essay ‘The Invisible Island’ found in The Unexpected Universe by Loren Eiseley (1994, 1964):

… I had been speaking, by way of illustrating a point, about a tiny deer mouse, a wonderfully new and radiant little creature of white feet and investigative fervor whom I had seen come into a basement seminar upon the Byzantine Empire. After a time the mouse in its innocent pleasure had actually ascended into an empty chair and perched upright with trembling inquisitive gravity while an internationally renowned historian continued to address the group. By no least sign did he reveal that an eager anticipatory face had appeared among his students.

After my own lecture I was approached and chided by a young lady who informed me with severity that I was betraying evidence of a foolish anthropomorphism, which would certainly place me under disfavor and suspicion in the psychological circles she frequented.

I sighed and reluctantly confessed that perhaps the mouse, since he was obviously a very young mouse recently come from the country, could not have understood every word of the entire lecture. Nevertheless, it was gratifyingly evident to my weary colleague, the great historian, that the mouse had at least tried.

“You see,” I explained carefully, “we may have witnessed something like Alice in reverse. The mouse came through a crevice in the wall, a chink in nature. Man in his time has come more than once through similar chinks. I admit that the creatures do not always work out and that the chances seemed rather against this one, but who is to say what may happen when a mouse gets a taste for Byzantium rather beyond that of the average graduate student? It takes time, generations even, for this kind of event to mature.

“If I may be pardoned for being so bold,” I remonstrated with the young lady, “what do you think your chances might have been of charging me with anthropomorphism when we were both floundering about in a mud puddle, or, for that matter, testing whether an incipient backbone might enable us to wriggle upstream? You must remember,” I continued, “that these are all figurative entrances and exits with sometimes kingdoms at the bottom of them. Or disaster, or even both together.”

“But not, “the young lady protested venomously, “the Byzantine Empire.”

… “This woman is evidently part of a conspiracy to keep things just as they are,” I later wrote to my [great historian] friend. “This is what biologically we may call the living screen, the net that keeps things firmly in place, a place called now.

“It doesn’t always work,” I added in encouragement. “Things get through. We ourselves are an example. Perhaps a bad one. About the mouse … ”

The answer came back in a few days, lugubriously.

“The Exterminators have come.Your chink is closed. Definitely.”

[ … ]

… To have a genetic island there must be in the beginning an isolating barrier.

… Struggle of and by itself, does little but sharpen what exists to a superior efficiency. True, it plays an important role in evolution, but it is not necessarily the only, or even the primary, factor in the rare emergence of the completely novel. It must always be remembered that natural selection is one of those convenient magical phrases that can embrace both dramatic change and stultifying biological conservatism.

… Islands can be regarded as something thrust up into recent time out of a primordial past. In a sense, they belong to different times: a crab time or a turtle time, or even a lemur time, as on Madagascar.

… it is the wet fish gasping in the harsh air on the shore, the warm-blooded mammal roving unchecked through the torpor of the reptilian night, the lizard-bird launching into a moment of ill-aimed flight that shatter all purely competitive assumptions. These singular events reveal escapes through the living screen, penetrated, one would have to say in retrospect, by the “over specialized” and the seemingly “inefficient,” the creatures driven to the wall. Only after their triumphant planetary radiation is something new observed to have arisen in solitude and silence.

My most recent previous post from Eiseley’s book is  here.

-Julie

http://www.unrealnature.com/

 

May 14, 2015

Once this Heart Is Located

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:49 am

… All editors live by what is in the footage, not what the scriptwriter or director hoped would be there.

This is from the Introduction to First Cut: Conversations with Film Editors by Gabriella Oldham (1992):

… Editing involves not merely a theoretical consideration of the effect of one shot upon another, or a linear rendition of a script, or a mechanical measurement of frames. It is all that and much more — rhythm, instinct, emotion, psychology, art — and it draws from the total talent of one person, the editor, who collaborates with the director to create a cumulative sensory event.

For starters, editors organize minutiae, intensify subtleties, heighten emotions, and blend countless elements of image and sound to create a film.

[ … ]

… In both documentary and feature worlds … editors learn to become unaffected by the preconceptions (or the contagious human excitement) of location shooting and unhindered by the responsibilities (or preconceptions) of the director. All editors live by what is in the footage, not what the scriptwriter or director hoped would be there. Editors know they are rewarded for their patience during the grueling chore of watching dailies when special takes leap out at them — a character’s glance, a pattern of light, an emotionally charged image. Such footage offers itself as the core of the film, the “heart” around which less compelling material will revolve. Once this heart is located, the film seems to become a living, breathing entity to the editor, despite all its anticipated challenges and problems. Initial feelings of inadequacy and helplessness — “Where can I start?” — which plague nearly every editor, finally drop away. At that point, editing transcends the mundane and ventures into the realm of art.

-Julie

http://www.unrealnature.com/

 

May 13, 2015

Always Moving

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:41 am

” … the problem is to catch a reality that is never static, is always moving towards or away from a moment of crystallization … “

This is from the title essay by Sheryl Conkelton found in Uta Barth: In Between Places (2000):

barth_hand

… what could be construed as pathological passivity could also be a resistance to productiveness, a rejection of socialized behaviors that insist on consuming the world. The theme of not-knowing becomes an indifferent transcendence of constantly shifting imagery: there is no responsibility to actively synthesize the images. The paradox of resistant passivity suggests that undirectedness, rather than constructed self-awareness, might be the a priori and originary point …

barth_time01

Barth brings the real into the imaginary: her project proposed the possibility of their interaction and interchangeability as the originary point, an in-between place at a distance from the dichotomies of the perceptual and the cognitive, the representational and the abstract, the referential and the simulacral.

For a director the problem is to catch a reality that is never static, is always moving towards or away from a moment of crystallization, and to present this movement, this arriving and moving on as a new perception. — Michelangelo Antonioni

Barth_field

My most recent previous post on Barth is here.

-Julie

http://www.unrealnature.com/

 

May 12, 2015

25,000 Years

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:47 am

… To venture underground was akin to moving between worlds … [I]n the other world, where spirits were literally within arm’s reach, the visitors could not have failed to see them taking shape …

This is from Cave Art by Jean Clottes (2008):

… The illumination the lamps provided was no doubt weak (about one fifth that of a modern candle), but it would have sufficed, since people’s eyes adapt quickly to the dark and become much more sensitive to the faintest light. An ample supply of grease — carried in a leather pouch — and wicks, as well as the equipment to light them, would have ensured a light source lasting several hours.

Both grease lamps and torches cast weak glimmers and shadows around their bearers and on nearby walls. The flickering light would have continually thrown elements on the surface of the walls into relief, or made them vanish altogether, giving them life and mystery.

… Why should this art be extraordinary? It is not a matter of aesthetics, as artistic appreciation varies considerably according to people, periods, places and cultures. Two well-established facts mark Palaeolithic art as deeply original: firstly, its very long duration, over a period of at least 20-25,000 years, proved beyond doubt by the radiocarbon analyses carried out in painted caves and the artefacts discovered in well-dated archaeological habitation layers. Secondly, there is the frequentation by humans of deep caves throughout that extremely long period. What can we conclude from such behavior, unique in the history of humankind? Other questions arise: does this art testify to a unity of beliefs and practices, and, if we are tempted to answer in the affirmative, could this really be possible over such an immensity of time?

… Elsewhere in the world, caves were mostly shunned, because they were generally perceived as spiritually dangerous, other-worldly places, where supernatural spirits or the dead dwelled. When people did frequent them, which happened only occasionally, and for short periods, they did so because they wanted to use them as shelters in troubled times, to hold propitiatory ceremonies, which were sometimes accompanied by the making of wall art, as with the Mayas, or to use them as burial places.

… The hypothesis that best accounts for the facts as we currently understand them is that Palaeolithic people had a shamanic religion and created their art within its framework.

… Shamans … play the part of mediators between the world of the living and the world of the spirits.

To venture underground was akin to moving between worlds, and was done as deliberately as when the shaman went into a trance for the customary healing ceremonies. In this way, the shamans would encounter the spirits that lived inside the rocks and inhabited those mysterious, frightening places, contacting the gods through painting and engraving and gaining their goodwill or some of their power. This does not mean that the shaman was necessarily alone. He or she could be accompanied by acolytes, sick people, or others who had an exceptional need to be exposed to this supernatural power.

Their long stays in these deep, dark galleries may have resulted in two different, if related phenomena. Firstly, being underground, cut off from outside stimuli and without any sense of time, could have led to hallucinations. Secondly, convinced that they were in the other world, where spirits were literally within arm’s reach, the visitors could not have failed to see them taking shape in the cave walls in the flickering torchlight, parts of their bodies emerging from cracks in the rock.

caveArt_lascaux

-Julie

http://www.unrealnature.com/

 

May 11, 2015

To Nail Quicksilver to Lead

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:46 am

… Yet no matter how daunting the store of verbiage on art, there is always — if the subject is indeed art — a great deal (sometimes the core) left over …

… Of course, the only cure for the imprisonment of old words will be more and better words, provoked by better doubts …

This is from the essay ‘Comet: Jackson Pollock’s Life and Work’ by Kirk Varnedoe found in Jackson Pollock (1998):

… Since the artist’s death, the tremendous volume of new information, and all the thorough cataloguing, has not assuaged the basic problem Leo Steinberg faced when he looked at the Janis retrospective of 1955. In fact the issue has grown proportionately: if this work has such renown and is so widely influential, what does that signify for our culture?

… Other painters, like Frederic Remington or Andrew Wyeth or Edward Hopper, have codified certain ideas of what Americans like to think about themselves, and thus enjoy a sweet, finally provincial standing as national artists. Along with Walt Whitman and a few others, though, Pollock stands in an entirely different class, as someone powerfully understood, at home and abroad and for better or worse in his grandeur and in his misery, to represent the core of what America is. And the story of America’s attempt to define itself culturally in the last half century — the mix of insecurity and ambition, the internal conflicts and the ambivalence of outside observers — is written into the histories of both his career and its legacy. Innumerable efforts to explain Pollock, or to assess his achievements and flaws, have been bound up in the notion that, as much as the nation defines him, he also defines it.

Pollock_1948Number_1ADetail
detail of Number 1A, 1948

… The paintings live on as art (as opposed to interesting historical documents) principally through unrecorded, nonverbal, subjective responses. This needs emphasizing again. There was a time when it seemed very important that these be pictures without words — when the man who made them and many who were drawn to them believed that trying to say what they meant was a pointless betrayal; and when skeptics for their part found the works’ groping inarticulateness all too typical of the low surliness of the age, as manifest in the moody stammering of James Dean. By now, though, these are pictures amply wrapped with words: the many stories have themselves become a story, and cocoon the work so densely that a full-time devotee of Pollock studies might thrive without ever escaping their fabric. Yet no matter how daunting the store of verbiage on art, there is always — if the subject is indeed art — a great deal (sometimes the core) left over, and only learnable firsthand.

… it’s hard to accept that history’s primary work is to nail quicksilver to lead. Of course, the only cure for the imprisonment of old words will be more and better words, provoked by better doubts; but confrontation with the material presence is a very good prod for getting to those questions. Certain rewards, and rewarding uncertainties, only come through periods of private silence in front of the art. They are what exhibitions, after the clatter of crates, budgets, and bargaining, should strive to provide. And accompanying essays, after wrestling with histories and issues, should similarly trust the art and the audience, and accept that an important aim, primary and final, is simply to direct attention back to the works themselves. Doubtless a lot of what went into Pollock’s head, a lot that came out of his mouth, and a lot that has been and continues to be written about his pictures, embodies just the common cultural clutter of the time. The paintings do not. To be reminded of this, look at them.

-Julie

http://www.unrealnature.com/

 

May 10, 2015

Let Us Try to Hear

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:47 am

This is from the end of the essay ‘ “Where Now? Who Now?” ‘ found in The Book to Come by Maurice Blanchot (1959; 2003). He’s quoting from Samuel Beckett’s novel, The Unnamable:

… Let us try to hear “that voice that speaks, knowing it is lying, indifferent to what it says, too old perhaps and too humiliated ever finally to be able to say the words that will make it stop.” … “Words are everywhere, in me, outside of me, there, just now I had no density, I hear them, no need to hear them, no need of a head, impossible to stop them, I am in words, I am made of words, of the words of others, what others, the place too, the air too, the walls, the floor, the ceiling, words, the whole universe is here, with me, I am the air, the walls, the immured, everything gives way, opens up, flows out, flows back, flecks, I am all those flecks, crossing, joining, separating, wherever I go I find myself, abandon myself, go toward myself, come from myself, never anything but myself, but a fragment of myself, taken up, lost, missed, words, I am all these words, all these foreigners, this word dust, bottomless where to place oneself, skyless where to dissolve, meeting oneself to say, fleeing from oneself to say, that I am all of them, those who unite with each other, those who leave each other, those who ignore each other, and nothing else, yes, everything else, that I am everything else, a silent thing, in a hard, empty, closed, dry, clean, black place, where nothing moves, nothing speaks, and that I am listening, and that I hear, and that I am searching, like an animal born in a cage of animals born in a cage of animals born in a cage of animals born in a cage … “

-Julie

http://www.unrealnature.com/

 

May 9, 2015

This Kind of Sport

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:46 am

… Even if briefly, there ensues a temporary reshaping of our being.

This is from the essay ‘Places for Fun and Games’ found in Landscape in Sight: Looking at America by John Brinckerhoff Jackson; edited by Helen Lefkowitz Horowitz (1997):

… Traffic proceeds by fits and starts. A dozen or more small children are running along the sidewalks; when they suddenly decide to cross the street and dart out from between the parked cars, some of them stoop to recover a cap or a glove or a baseball they might have dropped. Cars and trucks come to an abrupt halt, but the children show no alarm. They playfully slap the fenders of cars and pluck the car aerials. They call out some kind of greeting or defiance, and skip out of sight.

The vacant lots, ugly with trash and bottles and cans, slope down to a small stagnant puddle overgrown with weeds. What charm there is in the scene comes from the running children in their bright-colored parkas — blue and purple and green and pink.

When we have worked our way through the street congestion and halt to get our bearings, we watch them as they run and skip. We say what all drivers say on such an occasion: it is a public scandal for children to have to play in so dirty and hazardous a place.

… All agree that there ought to be a better place for play: one with a fence or a wall where there would be no intrusion, no dirt.

A fence, if it were high and strong enough, would be an excellent solution. It would keep out blowing trash and prevent shortcuts by strangers (so our speculations go). A fence would allow us to take care of the grounds, plane trees and grass; a place where all children, whatever their size, would be safe and have an equal chance; lawsuits would be unknown. Having a fence with a gate would mean that we could control how and when the playground was used and by whom; it would allow for special hours and special groups, and do away with quarrels. [ … ] More important, a fenced, well-kept playground would encourage efficiently organized activity, with records and scores and a kind of membership badge or uniform. Thus we visualize the ideal playground.

[ … ]

… Helix sports are what we in America have called sports of mobility: skiing, gliding, soaring, sailing, snowboarding, skateboarding, as well as [off-road] car and motorcycle racing, surfing, and mountain climbing.

… In all of them we see an instinctive avoidance of the “beaten track”: the familiar itinerary, the rails, the surfaced highway, the track, the lawn, even the gymnasium. We can see a revolt against the timetable, the schedule, the planned journey. It is as if a whole generation had taken off cross-country to explore the unfamiliar, nonhuman aspects of an environment where tradition offered no guidance or warning.

… compared with the terrain of traditional competitive sports, the terrain of helix sports usually bears few visible signs of its function: a few marks in the snow, a strip in the desert, a buoy, a light. Weather, which plays so important a role in most helix sports, is of course unpredictable. What the participant sets out to do is not to follow a well-defined course; he simply heads toward some remote destination: a new experience, a new environment, a dehumanized, abstract world of snow or water or sky or desert, where there are no familiar guidelines. With this goes a sense of uncertainty and of being totally alone. We note how we tend to revive an intuitive awareness of our surroundings, reacting to textures, currents, tides, temperatures, slopes, lights, and clouds and winds, even directions. The essential value of these sports seems to lie in a fresh contact with the environment and a new sense of our identity. Even if briefly, there ensues a temporary reshaping of our being.

… To quote Caseneuve: “This kind of sport finally results in diverting our consciousness, in creating the illusion of abandoning our everyday personality by modifying the relationship between the individual being and his environment. … It is not speed in itself that we seek … but the intoxication it produces. … There would be no helix sports if there were not a profound urge in all of us to escape from ourselves, and if there did not come to every living being a time to turn away from mundane existence.”

-Julie

http://www.unrealnature.com/

 

May 8, 2015

Eaten of Its Marrow

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:27 am

… its cold is in his bones.

This is from the essay ‘The Angry Winter’ found in The Unexpected Universe by Loren Eiseley (1994, 1964):

… “The human brain,” meditated the snowbound philosopher, “is the kernel which the winter itself matures.” The winter, he thought, tended to concentrate and extend the power of the human mind.

“The winter,” Thoreau continued, “is thrown to us like a bone to a famished dog, and we are expected to get the marrow out of it.” In foreshortened perspective Thoreau thus symbolically prefigured man’s passage through the four long glacial seasons, from which we have indeed painfully learned to extract the marrow. Although Thoreau had seen the scratches left by the moving ice across Mount Monadnock, even to recording their direction, he was innocent of their significance. What he felt was a sign of his intuitive powers alone. He sensed uncannily the opening of a damp door in a remote forest, and he protested that nature was too big for him, that it was, in reality, a playground for giants.

Nor was Thoreau wrong. Man is the product of a very unusual epoch in earth’s history, a time when the claws of a vast dragon, the glacial ice, groped fumbling toward him across a third of the world’s land surface and blew upon him the breath of an enormous winter. It was a world of elemental extravagance, assigned by authorities to scarcely one percent of earth’s history and labeled “geo-catastrophic.” For over a million years man, originally a tropical orphan, has wandered through age-long snowdrifts or been deluged by equally giant rains.

He has been present at the birth of mountains. He has witnessed the disappearance of whole orders of life and survived the cyclonic dust clouds that blew in the glacial winds off the receding ice fronts.

GlaciationsinEarthExistance
[image from Wikipedia]

[ … ]

… As Thoreau anticipated, man has been matured by winter; he has survived its coming, and has eaten of its marrow. But its cold is in his bones. The child will partake always of the parent, and that parent is the sleeping dragon whose kingdom we hold merely upon sufferance and whose vagaries we have yet to endure.

My most recent previous post from Eiseley’s book is here.

-Julie

http://www.unrealnature.com/

 

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