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Sunday, September 24, 2006

A time for retreat

Bro. Clarence along with Bro. Juniper have departed on a mission to Barstow to pick up some provisions for our anticipated retreat the first week of October. A few of us have decided that with the dropping of the daytime temperature, that we take advantage of it and will do a bit of desert hiking and camping for a week. I must admit, I do need to retreat from electricity and all things electrified from time to time. We do keep these sort of retreats very simply, none of the modern camping gear, certainly no global positioning devices, but I will have an old Boy Scout compass, and a hand drawn map that late Bro. Donovan left us. He was a true trailblazer, and if one simply follows the lines drawn on his numerous maps, one will not fail to be taken on an extraordinary journey through this Mojave landscape. Oh yes, as Bro. Clarence was getting into the pickup truck, he handed me this handwritten paper, and with no time to explain, he simply said, "Something to discuss upon my return." With that, the pickup sped away, and for half an hour I could still see a far off swirl of dust and could only imagine Bro. Clarence holding on for dear life as Bro. Juniper, behind the wheel, drove that dirt road like it was the Indy speedway.

Bro. Clarence's handwritten note:

"It is interesting to contemplate a tangled bank, clothed with many plants of many kinds, with birds singing on the bushes, with various insects flitting about, and with worms crawling through the damp earth, and to reflect that these elaborately constructed forms, so different from each other, and dependent upon each other in so complex a manner, have all been produced by laws acting around us. These laws, taken in the largest sense, being Growth with reproduction; Inheritance which is almost implied by reproduction; Variability from the indirect and direct action of the conditions of life, and from use and disuse; a Ratio of Increase so high as to lead to a Struggle for Life, and as a consequence to Natural Selection, entailing Divergence of Character and the Extinction of less improved forms. Thus, from the war of nature, from famine and death, the most exalted object which we are capable of conceiving, namely, the production of the higher animals, directly follows. There is grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers, having been originally breathed by the Creator into a few forms or into one; and that, whilst this planet has gone circling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being evolved."

5 comments:

Lifewish said...

I love that quote. Life is a ghost in the machine, an elegant gossamer tapestry spread across an unfeeling landscape that manages to persist and thrive regardless. Beautiful.

Bro. Bartleby said...

Could it possibly be that the threads of String Theory are the unseen fabric of the tapestry?

Lifewish said...

I find it unlikely. String theory is much lower-level - it'd be like saying that quantum theory holds skyscrapers together. Basically true, but not terribly informative.

As far as anyone can tell, String Theory is perfectly compatible with a lifeless universe.

Bro. Bartleby said...

A violin is lifeless, until the violinist makes those lifeless strings vibrate.

Lifewish said...

Yeah, the "perfectly compatible" was a daft way of saying it. The point is that any of the myriad other forms our subatomic universe could have taken would, as far as we can tell, have been just as amenable to life.

It's like saying that clay is the source of houses - it's factually accurate, but houses could easily be made of anything else with the required properties (i.e. small oblong blocks).