Thursday, December 25, 2008

Terra Cognita

The New York Times yesterday ran a nice piece by Oliver Morton of the journal Nature; amid the perennial alarm about the imminent demise of life on Earth, it usefully reminds us of our planet's astonishing antiquity and the indefatigable resilience of life, broadly construed anyway. That may not say much about the longevity of human life, which is very likely to be far more ephemeral, but it is perversely reassuring to know that in the cosmic sense we really can't do much damage (I do rather hope the big cats outlast us by a few million years at least).

I will indulge in another favorite poem, this time by the renegade Victorian Thomas Hardy, dated December 31, 1900 and apparently reflecting on the final day of that nineteenth century. Hardy had a long and well-placed lifespan (1840-1928), reaching from the wane of agrarian Olde England well into the mechanized age. What would he say today, I wonder? His image of defiant avian transcendence is positively Dickinsonian.

"The Darkling Thrush"

I leant upon a coppice gate
When Frost was spectre-gray,
And Winter's dregs made desolate
The weakening eye of day.
The tangled bine-stems scored the sky
Like strings of broken lyres,
And all mankind that haunted nigh
Had sought their household fires.

The land's sharp features seemed to be
The Century's corpse outleant,
His crypt the cloudy canopy,
The wind his death-lament.
The ancient pulse of germ and birth
Was shrunken hard and dry,
And every spirit upon earth
Seemed fervourless as I.

At once a voice arose among
The bleak twigs overhead
In a full-hearted evensong
Of joy illimited;
An aged thrush, frail, gaunt, and small,
In blast-beruffled plume,
Had chosen thus to fling his soul
Upon the growing gloom.

So little cause for carolings
Of such ecstatic sound
Was written on terrestrial things
Afar or night around,
That I could think there trembled through
His happy good-night air
Some blessed Hope, whereof he knew
And I was unaware.


Anonymous said...

I think in a few million years, a chimeric species with trace humanness will dominate. What will start as innocent and whimsical genetic experimentation will incrementally evolve to become a necessary technology to perpetuate life in whatever guise feasible.

Part human, part plant, part cat, part robot...can't wait! If only we could see that far into our evolution...who would dare glimpse, perchance to be horrified, fascinated, repulsed, confused?

Novalis said...

Improve on...US? Inconceivable!

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Novalis said...

See what I mean? Evolving every day.

Anonymous said...

We definitely don't have enough tv channels or infomercials...

Can't wait for personalised advertising -- directly into your brain, so you don't have to waver undecidedly about purchases you most definitely don't need; just buy, don't question! Advertisers will be just like soul mates, knowing evry crevice of your psyche, every hidden desire/wish...

Just what we need, so we need never want again...

Gluttonous hunger, empty need to think, someone else will be paid to do it for you..

We will finally have arrived...look at each other dumbfoudedly, and wonder in blank-faced confusion where the f@#k we are...

And then God will look down at the stupendous splendour of his witless creations and say:

'I swear I didn't do it, it was Satan, blame him, for f@#k's sake! I only started the big bang; Satan did all that weird stuff with responsibility and free will, morals and ethics, and thinking and hell with him!'

And he'll swwear from that day henceforth that humans are no longer his children...

Everyon one will feel guilty and depressed, and pluck out their brains in a final act of humility to appease their estranged creator. But God will no longer care for their souls, only for his grumbling belly that will be sick with hunger at that point.

Essentially, he will end up feasting on their pulpy brains, and then complain to Satan (rolling his eyes in contempt at this stage) that he's still goddamn hungry..

This event will signal the big crunch and all will be subsumed in the nothingness that is the ultimate end..

Nothing ventured, nothing gained...

and it all started with tv..