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Saturday, March 29, 2008

OUR GENEALOGY: A Day at the Beach

If ev'ry tongue was still the noise would still continue

The rocks and stones themselves would start to sing:

Tim Rice / Andrew Lloyd Webber

These are a few of the pages of our genealogy. Some of the pages are sterile and blank with almost no writing. Some of the pages that had interesting stories are long lost or ruined. But even now, there are still some pages – almost miraculous fragments – that preserve remarkable portraits of our ancestors and relatives.

The story is not always straight-forward. There are unexpected twists in the plot.

If there is an over-riding theme in our genealogy it might be that life as a whole appears resilient, creative and enduring, but that life experienced more individually, say as an individual (or even a particular species) is finite and spans no more than a chapter or two – no exceptions.

We still don’t really have any solid evidence that there is any other life anywhere else in the universe. For all we know, this is the only world where matter learned the trick of eating food, growing, adapting to the environment, reproducing and writing Jack Handy style deep thoughts in web logs.

Given that we have all of our eggs in one basket (one earth - one cradle - one life support system – one brief window of geologic time) why is it that 6.6 billion people generally poop mostly into their own drinking water?

West coast salmon fisheries appear to be collapsing. Vast dead zones off the Oregon coast suffocate anything that can’t swim away. Some suggest that climate change may soon alter or affect established ocean currents. Such suggestions are seldom presented with positive consequent scenarios.

Given a speculative looming cataclysm in the food chain, it is always tempting to instead attribute available negative evidence to natural fluctuations in seasonal cycles that we hope are independent of human causation. It is just bad luck for salmon, we might rationalize, that peculiar dead zones, fertilizer polluted rivers, dams and overfishing combined all at once to wipe out this years run. Life goes on.

Presumably shopping for a colony site, thousands of Common Murre congregate on the ocean just off of Yaquina Head. It creates the impression that the ocean is still a fertile cradle for life. An indecisive breeze carries the raucous, almost ghostly screaming of seabirds across a quarter mile of waves to a score of huddled whale watchers assembled beneath the Yaquina Head Lighthouse.

“Hey, do you see any fish?”
“I think I saw one over here!”
“Stay away, that’s mine!”
“It’s mine!”
“What fish?”
“I don’t see any fish.”

Translation provided by Monkey-cam

Below the lighthouse, the ocean waves collide with the headlands creating a magnificent rock tumbler which ought to be inhospitable to life.

Yet here and there in the chaos, life finds and latches onto islands of calm – moments of sunshine bracketed between storms.

Well now, evrything dies, baby, thats a fact

But maybe evrything that dies someday comes back

Bruce Springsteen

This Week's Song

'Hallelujah' is a word often used to express thanks to God. I don't hear it very often outside of church songs, so initially, its usage in this week's song is puzzling. These words seem to emmanate from a less than ideal situation - one in which love is broken - and yet, "the baffled king composing Hallelujah..." raises chorus after chorus. The song seems sad and hopeless, yet the determination to thank God, even if he cannot be seen, is carried through to the end. For these resons, I chose to juxtopose it with this weeks images of a creation that may be breaking, but which still holds so much beauty and for which there still is some hope.

Halellujah by Leonard Cohen - Allison Crowe live performance

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