March 11, 2011
A well-known scientist (some say it was Bertrand Russell) once gave a public lecture on astronomy. He described how the earth orbits around the sun and how the sun, in turn, orbits around the center of a vast collection of stars called our galaxy. At the end of the lecture, a little old lady at the back of the room got up and said: "What you have told us is rubbish. The world is really a flat plate supported on the back of a giant tortoise." The scientist gave a superior smile before replying, "What is the tortoise standing on?" "You're very clever, young man, very clever", said the old lady. "But it's turtles all the way down!"
A version of this story was relayed by Stephen Hawking in the opening of his book A Brief History of Time. It makes me think how difficult it can be to consider the infinite connectedness of everything from the most minute to the most vast. How does a shift deep in the earth and under the sea impact what is the most prepared and one of the most technologically advanced people on the planet. And if an earthquake does this to a place more ready and more practiced than any other, what does this mean for those that are not paying attention to things that could happen, be it an act of nature or an act of man.
I have been thinking about turtles, and other things, since last Friday when I found the little guy in the picture while working in my parents garden. He (or she) is a Diamond Back Terrapin, and judging from it's size must have hatched last year. What puzzled me was why this fragile little creature was in the driveway on such a cold March day. I would have more expected to see it crawling around in warmer weather, and according to what I have read about them, it should have itself buried in the mud somewhere waiting for spring. At first I thought the terrapin was dead, but it stirred slightly when I lifted it, so I moved it to the pond's edge.
Perhaps the old lady was right, and somewhere deep under the earth a small turtle stirred in its slumber. Whether one believes in myth, science or God's infinity, I would likely find little comfort in either facing such disruption, devastation and loss as occurred today. It could be that our increasing connections make the world feel smaller, but it seems that we are having days like today more frequently.
My mind appears to be all over the place, so maybe I need to get my hands dirty and lose my self in the garden.