Friday, May 21, 2010

Under the Volcano

(pace Lowry)
Approximately 65.5 million years ago, dinosaurs looked into the skies. They weren't able to comprehend the atmospheric darkening that signaled the end of their existence. For these were cold blooded creatures. No warmth from the sun, no continuation of life. Only a few (then) insignificant small field mice-sized creatures survived. They generated their own heat and were able to endure the long atmospheric winter. They ultimately were designated - as are we - mammals.

The phenomenon which caused the dinosaur extinction was not a volcano, but an extraordinarily large meteorite which plunged into the ocean in the vicinity of the Caribbean. Regardless, the result was (on a vastly larger scale) similar to the eruption of a volcano - an enormous quantity of sun-blocking material ejected into the atmosphere.

We bipedal mammals have also quite recently looked into the skies. We, like the dinosaurs, see a partial dimming of the sun. But we understand what has caused this. (For we are intelligent, self-aware creatures). A volcano in Iceland awakened, spewing megatons of ash into the atmosphere. It isn't life threatening, but it is extraordinarily inconvenient. We are temporarily disallowed to jet across thousands of miles. We miss important meetings, experience interruption of our cherished, long awaited vacations.

What a bother! After all we have 'conquered the earth' (or so we like to believe). However, it would seem the earth has little interest in our being bothered and goes about its own evolutionary path. As far as the earth is concerned, we are merely ant-like things moving across its thin plates floating atop a molten sea.

We seldom (if ever) stop to consider that, sometime in the future, a curiously large fiery object may again appear in our skies. Will we, like the dinosaurs, peer at it with incomprehension? How dare it threaten us! Like the earth, the large fiery object will have little interest in what we comprehend or don't.

Who or what then will inherit the earth?