June 24th, 2005

The Nature of Change

My friend Laura has been writing some wonderful entries lately. Because my life has felt like a whitewater rafting expedition in recent months -- one minute I think I'm in the clear; the next I'm just trying to stay upright -- I was especially taken with this one she wrote yesterday:
Our experience just isn't a linear progression from birth to death, with gradual improvement and progress the usual thing. And it isn't a spiral either; we don't travel an ever-widening circle round and round certain landmarks on the path, Yeats-like. It turns out the catastrophists were right in some ways: change happens because uncontrollable forces move mountains or bury continents. What seemed "natural" yesterday isn't even geographically possible today. Who you were then isn't a location now and there's no map. It is like an earthquake: big noise, shaking, stuff falls down and maybe is set afire, and everything everything is different.
As someone whose whole life was transformed in the aftermath of the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake, I especially like the plate tectonics conceit, even if it does make it seem like I'm mixing metaphors here. Maybe I'm hurtling downstream during an earthquake that threatens to alter the course of the river -- as the 1812 New Madrid earthquake did to the Mississippi --- or, more bluntly, drop a huge rock on my head. Still, there's an appeal to extreme wilderness activity.