Erosion; a Dialogue Among Rocks

20 02 2010

Imagine, if you will, three similar worlds placed upon each other like sheets of paper, arranged so that their homologous features matched. 

 The top sheet is a picture of a timeless world.  Mountains dot its landscape, and great rocks thrust into the sky.  Trees cling to the sides of cliffs, their roots wrapped around boulders, and vines blanket them like a comforter.  A lone steep road ascends the side of a crag, winding its way up to the top, where a city sits in full view of the surrounding mountains and valleys.  This is not a defensive location, for the city has no enemies.  Nor is it a location of convenience, for its engineers were clever enough to be able put it on any terrain whatsoever.  It rests upon that crest like a beacon, because the denizens of the lone farms and ranches nestled in the nooks and dells throughout the land love to be able to gaze upon it, where it flickers like a nest of stars that haven’t learned how to fly across the sky yet.  On one horizon, the stars gather in retreat from the advancing dawn.  On the other horizon the sun hides just out of sight, gently illuminating the morning sky.  This world is held forever in a state of perpetual dawn.  Its clocks are always wound.  Its creatures are never hungry.  Its rocks are not eroded, nor are its metals corroded.  The entire place is pristine, like a new car, fresh and green, without blemish.  It even has that new-Earth smell.  A blanket of fog nestles in the lowest ravines, dripping dew upon its herbage.  Cascades of waterfalls make their way down the sides of rock faces.  It is near one of these streams that a man first appears.  He stares in awe at the world around him.  Then he sees the city, and he feels it beckoning to him, so he begins a slow ascent up the winding road cut into the face of the rock.

 Now, let us return to our stack of papers.  The world on the bottom, though a manifestation of the one on the top, is a very different place, indeed.  Somewhere between the top page and the bottom page, the forces of entropy kicked in, reducing the bottom page to a manner of Hell on Earth.  All of the mountains from the first page were eroded until they were nothing but completely flat valleys.  Then the valleys were eroded until they washed into the sea.  Boulders eroded into pebbles, which eroded into gravel, which turned to sand, then silt and then clay.  Hurricanes started in what once was the Atlantic Ocean, traversed unhindered where the American continent used to be and traveled on into the Pacific Ocean.  Being a very liquid sphere, it became not unlike Jupiter, with its everlasting cyclone.  The miniscule particles of sediment were stirred up into a colloid, a suspension of solid within a liquid, causing the dirt and water to mix into a dangerous quagmire.  The sun had reached the end of its life, and, for a time, there seemed some uncertainty as to whether it would consume the Earth or blow it into outer space.  It had done a little of both, tearing the planet apart and turning it inside out, bringing its molten core to the surface.  The stars fled from the sky and blinked out, and the sky was pitch black.  The Earth was void and without form.  It was ready for God to move upon the face of its darkness and create new heavens and a new Earth.  But this was the last page.  This world was timeless.  It was into this darkness that a man appeared in mid-air and fell into the quagmire, where he promptly began to sink into its quicksand, drawing ever closer to one of those eternally burning pockets of magma.

 Somewhere between those pages was another.  This middle page was the story leading the top page to the bottom page.  This one was not timeless, and, in a sense, it was not just one page but many.  In truth, these worlds when put together formed a book.  The mountains were only halfway eroded in the middle page.  The creatures were hungry but not dead.  Somewhere in the middle of this life-death world was a hill that had once been a mountain but was not yet a valley, and a significant portion of rock had been exposed.  A force of humanity had hewn rock from its place and changed its shape, relocating it ultimately to the head of a grave.  A very large mass of people gathered around it to pay their respects, never noticing the neighboring grave, which had also been freshly filled.  This grave was marked by no headstone, for its only respecter could afford naught but to roll a nearby boulder to the place of the head.  The crowd, then, could hardly be blamed for trampling rudely upon the recently deceased, though they might have noticed the one mourner beside it.  If they had possessed eyes to see such a thing, they would have seen the personage of a deceased one arise from his grave and walk slowly up into the sky, traversing a road in a different world, making his way to a certain city.  By all appearances, he would be walking up thin air into the sky, where once a mountain had been.  Likewise, if they had the eyes to see, then they would have noticed a personage falling from his grave into the bowels of a dead planet, sinking into an invisible mud.  He would by all appearances be falling through a valley floor that had not yet washed into the sea.

 When the crowds dispersed, aged and died out, a vandal visited the gravestone, changing one letter to another.  We might imagine those two stones lying side by side, one carved by human hands, the other carved by random chance.  One stone looks at the other and notices his regular shape, and the letters and numbers scrawled across the surface.  He at once recognizes the fact that something apart from the forces of nature has affected his neighbor.  We might pretend that the two stones had a discussion on the matter.

 “By Jove,” says the boulder, “You have a very distinguishing mark upon you!”

 The gravestone awakes from its slumber and mumbles, “It’s just erosion.  Random forces of nature have made me this way.”

 “But,” the boulder protests, “there is writing on you!”

 The gravestone immediately dismisses this.  “It is nothing but an illusion.  It only looks like the work of an intelligent hand.  I just happen to be the one rock among millions that happened to erode intelligently.  It’s a statistical inevitability.”

 “Look, rock,” said the boulder in frustration, “I know very well what a natural rock looks like.  I know what the forces of chance would produce, and you aren’t it!”  The boulder peered closely at the other and read, “R. I. P. H… Charles Darwin… 1809–1882.”

 “What?!” replied the gravestone, offended, “That’s supposed to say R.I.P.”

 “Well, it used to, but somebody messed with it…hey, how do you know what it’s supposed to say?  I thought you said it was written by random chance.  That’s like rolling the dice and saying that it’s supposed to give you ten, or flipping a coin and saying that it’s supposed to be heads.  If it’s random, then it’s not supposed to be anything in particular.”

 “Yes, but I was the lucky rock that eroded into the message, ‘R.I.P.’

 “I wonder what the H means,” mused the boulder.

 “Nothing,” the gravestone snapped, “It doesn’t mean anything, because it wasn’t authored by anyone.”

 “Does it mean Heaven,” thought the boulder, but then a new idea ocurred to him, “or does it mean Hell?”

 “I said it doesn’t mean anything!” the gravestone shouted.

 “Nonsense,” said the boulder, “It’s too well organized to not mean something.  Someone did this to you, and they must have meant something by it.”

 But the two rocks would not agree.  With time, the gravestone eroded into just another rock, and its letters crumbled away.  Then it said nothing, meant nothing, and looked not at all like a rock that had been deliberately shaped by human hands.

But this is all pretend.  Rocks do not discuss the meaning of life, for they are just rocks.  It is people, living and breathing and exibiting far more design, which demonstrate this kind of nonsensical discussion.  They see their own order and claim it a matter of random chance.  They see aberrations in that order and call it disease, a thing which was not meant to be.  Yet, though they can see that the aberration was not meant to be, they refuse to see that the  healthy person was meant to be.  Having been endowed with a design, having been meant to be anything at all, we demonstrate the existence of the one who meant it.  Otherwise, we cannot claim that a sick person should have been healthy any more than we can claim that a coin toss should have been heads…unless we thought we had rigged the toss, but, then, there comes the intervention of an intelligent design.

 Back to our book, again, we see that the pages have been disturbed.  Someone has picked up our unbound book and read through only the first page.  After finishing that page, the reader placed it on the bottom of the stack and never finished reading the second page.  Now, our story of the universe starts with degeneration without a perfect starting point.  The beginning is mysterious and unexplained.  Humpty is falling from a wall upon which he never sat.  The story begins with the fall.  In our new version, the sun has already risen, and a tiny crack has already formed in the wall of the city.  A particle of sand has moved a little down the stream.  The world starts as nearly perfect as it could be, except that it is already on the second page before we’ve really begun. 

 Then we come to what would have been the end.  Billions of souls perish in the darkness of the end of the world, and there is no transition from there to the first page again, even though it is the next page.  An intraversable chasm sits between the first and last pages, and the people suffering in one cannot get to the other.  Yet, mysteriously, the new last page is full of people.  Those fortunate enough to live on this page have no fear of slipping to the second page, because there is none.  They started with the second page, and now they’re on the new last page, the beginning of things, when all was perfect and new.  All that was old has passed away, and now there is a new heaven and a new Earth.  This will not perish, because this is now the final page of the story.

In the meantime, we shall erode like rocks while arguing whether we have been shaped by an intelligent designer.

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