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This is a piece of creative nonfiction inspired by geologic time. As a student of geology, I discovered the troubling concept of “deep time,” the timescale of the Earth, which is incomprehensibly vast, and leaves a human life seeming insignificant and nannoscopic. The work traces several thinkers who are deeply influenced by geologic processes and time. James Hutton is the discoverer of deep time who believed in intentionality and benevolence in Nature. Charles Darwin saw no purpose, but rather randomness in nature’s processes. Loren Eiseley, a contemporary scholar of evolution, Darwin and time reorients spirituality by way of connection to all life via the tanged string of evolutionary lineage. Gary Snyder uses geologic images to convey his understanding of Buddhism. Through these thinkers I have also interwoven my own journey in personal narratives wrestling with the concept of deep time in various geologically interesting places such as the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument, Rainier National Park, and Canyonlands National Park. I have tried to make these geologic descriptions as accurate as possible. Also woven in are several passages where I have tried to convey geologic time itself through various metaphors.
Gary Snyder (1930- ) -- Mountains and rivers without end, James Hutton (1726-1797), Charles Darwin (1809-1882) -- Evolution, Loren C. Eiseley (1907-1977), Science and the humanities, Communities -- Science, Geology -- Deep Time, Philosophy -- Natural Philosophy, Discoveries in science -- Human experience, Historical geology, Personal narratives, Whitman College -- Dissertation collection 2013 -- Environmental Humanities
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