Saturday, September 28, 2013

A Seat Among the Clouds

Mountains are the subject of legend and mythology. Some cultures revere mountains as sacred places. The rise, girth, steepness of mountain peaks piercing the clouds seem at times poetic and sacred, and awe inspiring.

Fittingly mountains are also the center of literary forms. In a poem by Gary Snyder, a Cold Mountain path becomes a metaphor for the trajectory of life where the trials of the trail lead to a seat among the clouds:
“Clambering up the Cold Mountain path,
The Cold Mountain trail goes on and on:
The long gorge choked with scree and boulders,
The wide creek, the mist-blurred grass.
The moss is slippery, though there's been no rain
The pine sings, but there's no wind.
Who can leap the world's ties
And sit with me among the white clouds?”
Gary Snyder, Riprap and Cold Mountain Poems
A motion graphics video by Al Boardman illustrates the visual essence and characteristics of Earth's most extraordinary mountains from Everest to Monadnock:

For the Love of Mountains by Al Boardman on Vimeo.

EverestHighest Mountain in Altitude
K2Hardest Mountain to Climb
Annapurna IMost Dangerous Mountain
Gangkhar PuensumHighest Unclimbed Mountain
Ojos del SaladoHighest Active Volcano
KailashMost Sacred Mountain
LoganMountain with Largest Circumference
KilimanjaroHighest Free Standing Mountain
Mauna KeaTallest Mountain from Base to Summit
MonadnockMost Climbed Mountain

John Muir wrote,
"Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature's peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop away from you like the leaves of Autumn."
John Muir, Our National Parks
Sacred places are physical and mental loci we return to for solace, well-being, peace and good tidings. On returning to climb in the Sierra Nevada after 31 years, Gary Snyder wrote,
“Range after range of mountains.
Year after year after year.
I am still in love.”
Gary Snyder


Saturday, September 21, 2013

Fall Meditation

Perception passes mostly unnoticed from the present into a carousel of snapshots in memory. The repetition of seasons, while predictable, predictably come to an end for every life.

Early Autumn
Qián Xuǎn (钱选 /錢選), 13th Century, Ink on Paper

The imagery in Qián Xuǎn's drawing Early Autumn above, and the words in J.R.R. Tolkien's poem below, express a bittersweet recognition of the repetition and finality of living and the melancholic passage of time.

I sit beside the fire and think
Of all that I have seen
Of meadow flowers and butterflies
In summers that have been

Of yellow leaves and gossamer
In autumns that there were
With morning mist and silver sun
And wind upon my hair

I sit beside the fire and think
Of how the world will be
When winter comes without a spring
That I shall ever see

For still there are so many things
That I have never seen
In every wood in every spring
There is a different green

I sit beside the fire and think
Of people long ago
And people that will see a world
That I shall never know

But all the while I sit and think
Of times there were before
I listen for returning feet
And voices at the door

J.R.R. Tolkien

Tolkien repeats the line, "I sit beside the fire and think" to mirror the repetition of the seasons. Then in the closing lines, deftly coaxes the reader to experience our senses by listening for returning feet.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Playing to a Packed House

Kierkegaard advanced the idea that a person — not society, culture, or religion — is responsible for finding meaning in life and for living authentically, with passion and sincerity.
Life has its own hidden forces which you can only discover by living.
― Søren Kierkegaard 
Meaning begins and ends with consciousness. We sense and process while immersed in stimuli. We find our tribes and we make life-long connections.

We are here to notice each thing so each thing gets noticed. Together we notice not only each mountain shadow and each stone on the beach but, especially, we notice the beautiful faces and complex natures of each other. We are here to bring to consciousness the beauty and power that are around us and to praise the people who are here with us. We witness our generation and our times. We watch the weather. Otherwise, creation would be playing to an empty house.
Annie Dillard
The summation of all consciousness is inestimable, if not infinite. If for nothing else but the will to live, the collective perceptions of all living organisms is a rapt audience. Nature, in the course of continuous unfolding, plays to a packed house.

Our home is the Earth. Our house is the universe.

According to the second law of thermodynamics, things fall apart. Structures disintegrate. Buckminster Fuller hinted at a reason we are here: By creating things, by thinking up new combinations, we counteract this flow of entropy. We make new structures, new wholeness, so the universe comes out even. A shepherd on a hilltop who looks at a mess of stars and thinks, ‘There’s a hunter, a plow, a fish,’ is making mental connections that have as much real force in the universe as the very fires in those stars themselves.
Annie Dillard
Humans entertain the notion of counteracting the flow of entropy by creating things, by imposing temporary order, and by identifying and naming patterns in apparent replication and reoccurrence, but human purpose is disappointingly singular, like a mayfly hatch.

Consciousness is best not squandered. It ends in an instant.


Saturday, September 7, 2013

Submarine Volcano Identified

Last Thursday the discovery that a submarine peak known as Tamu Massif is a single volcano was reported by geophysicists in the journal Nature Geoscience.

Tamu Massif is a Shield volcano about 900 miles off the coast of Japan. Shield volcanoes have a low vertical profile resembling that of a warrior's shield because of how they are formed.

Mauna Kea
13,803 ft above sea level
The genesis of a shield volcano involves fluid lava flows of low viscosity magma that travel farther horizontally than vertically explosive volcanoes.

Mauna Kea on the Big Island of Hawaii is an example of a shield volcano expressed above sea level.

Tamu Massif erupted for a few million years during the early Cretaceous period. It has been inactive since then.

Tamu Massif is is 400 miles wide and 2.5 miles high and considered by some geoscientists to be the largest known volcano on Earth. By comparison, Tamu Massif is 25% smaller by volume than Mars' Olympus Mons volcano.
Olympus Mons, Mars
Tamu Massif , Earth
Olympus Mons is the largest volcano discovered in the solar system.

"A human being is a part of the whole called by us universe, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feeling as something separated from the rest, a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty." Albert Einstein