Not Man Apart

A few days respite from work before beginning the commute from Kingston to the Seattle waterfront onboard one of the new Mosquito fleet. This morning I sat on a park bench overlooking the Kingston marina drinking a damnably expensive cup of coffee beneath a sky obscured by high cloud. The water of Appletree Cove was so still that concentric ripples left by a gull taking flight could be seen half way to the far shore. I listened to the high, distant drone of a float plane, the twitter of swallows returned from the south, the irritated cackle of crows (crows seem always irritated), and the sound of gulls squabbling over some scrap of food or place to stand.

To the west, above the trees and beyond Hood Canal, the Olympic Mountains were covered with new snow from a gale that blew in from the sea last night. Because they are so close to the coast,  snowline in the Olympics is only 5,500 feet. Inland, across Admiralty Inlet,  snowline in the Cascades rises to 8,000 feet.

There was a sharp edge to the beauty, as sharp as chipped flint or a muscle shell. That beauty has evolved over millions of years yet everything now bears the mark of humanity, even what cannot be seen. We have become evolution made conscious. We shape the future of the earth. The changes that once took geologic ages we now make in a century and less, in a single lifetime. We have enormous power but we lack responsibility. It’s understandable in a species so young. We are a planetary experiment, the first we know where evolution has become self-conscious. But, like most experiments, it may fail and be abandoned.

There is some reassurance. The earth will persist in any case. And it is a grand experiment whether or not we succeed.

"Then what is the answer?—Not to be deluded by dreams.
To know that great civilizations have broken down into violence,
   and their tyrants come, many times before.
When open violence appears, to avoid it with honor or chose
   the least ugly faction; these evils are essential.
To keep one’s own integrity, by merciful and uncorrupted and
   not wish for evil; and not be duped
By dreams of universal justice or happiness. These dreams will
   not be fulfilled.
To know this, and know that however ugly the parts appear the
   whole remains beautiful. A severed hand
Is an ugly thing, and man dissevered from the earth and stars
   and his history . . . for contemplation or in fact . . .
Often appears atrociously ugly. Integrity is wholeness, the greatest beauty is
Organic wholeness, the wholeness of life and things, the divine
   beauty of the universe. Love that, not man
Apart from that, or else you will share man’s pitiful confusions,
   or drown in despair when his days darken."
Robinson Jeffers, The Answer

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One thought on “Not Man Apart”

  1. I think your blog is very cool! I didn’t read everything on it, but was drawn to this one and agree with what you’ve written. I can’t believe I put in writing that I agree with you. Of course, what I’m agreeing to is that crows always seem irritated.

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