Every Rock is a River
Ever had a rock collection? Lots of people have pet rocks. There was a craze for them in the 1970’s. Now apparently you can get a USB version.
Any walk along a shingle beach is bound to result in heavy pockets. There’s something primevally satisfying about a rock that fits, just so, in your hand. But what’s the longest you’ve kept one? And what’s the most elaborate story you’ve ever woven around one?
The Victorians elevated rock collecting, as they did many things, to the level of an art. In fact they went even further than that. They made it into a science. Here’s a collection of ‘Eoliths’. Nothing like a classical sounding word to give something a ring of authority. It’s all Greek for ‘dawn stones’. Supposedly these were used as tools in the earliest glimmers of time. Actually it’s just a nice collection of stones.
But behind the wishful thinking and florid creativity of the Victorian imagination was a less becoming trait. Science is, after all, done by people. And all people, to a greater or lesser extent, are like Narcissus who fell in love with his own reflection. The Victorians took collective Narcissism to a new pitch. The desire to find evidence of early humans in England was a matter of national pride. To Victorian gentlemen of science it seemed proper that the seat of the Empire should be the fount of all wisdom and the ultimate root of all culture. Such pride led to gullibility, and the search for the beginnings of Man eventually ended shamefully in Sussex with the great Piltdown Man hoax.
This box of eoliths is not deliberately misleading, just caught up in its own fairy tale. Perhaps this collection is interesting because of what it reveals about the collector. Are we enlightened moderns so different from the collector of these stones? How do we realize what we are really like? Is it necessary to loosen our grip on some of the possessions we so eagerly hoard around us? Perhaps if we stopped focusing so much on our stuff we might get some insight into our desire for it.
Perhaps these stones should go back to their friends. Or perhaps you can share some stories or pictures of stones you’ve collected to show that they’re worth keeping…
The title of this post is from here. Many thanks to Shane for the link.
Have you ever had that experience of being unable to carry on reading because your eyes are wet?
This is one of the most inspirational pieces of writing I’ve read in a long time. But perhaps that’s because I have some experience of anicca. If you don’t it may just seem like guff.