A perspective on time

26 Jun 2003|Darrel Rhea

I paddled down the Grand Canyon this last week. This is the ultimate wilderness experience for the Western US. It is a powerful, spiritual trip I heartily recommend to anyone who can manage a basic dog paddle. Sure you fry in the desert heat, but you counter that by dipping yourself periodically in icy river water. Sleeping and eating sand might get old, but the views of the canyon by moonlight will have you believe you are on a different planet in a different age.

What I found most moving was the experience of time. As you descend the canyon, you move through the geologic time by cutting deeper into the history of the earth. After several days I was faced with a layer of beautiful black shiny rock called Vishnu Shist. This rock was created under enormous pressure 1.7 billion years ago. Now, how do you get your mind wrapped around time in terms of “billions of years”???

The question I asked the local geologist that helped me was “…so what was shakin on ol’ planet earth about 2 billion years ago?” Well, earth might have had some life, but not like we know it. This was before blue green algae took over the earth and created a deadly toxic byproduct called oxygen. There was no photosynthesis happening on earth when these rock walls were made. …wow.

Somehow seeing a mountain of rock and touching it made the concept of such a world less abstract. I could see and touch a time where man (and life as we know it) had no significance. It was humbling. We need reminders of our place in the universe. After all, we just showed up to the party, and we might be one of the first to leave it too.

Someday, perhaps in a billion years, perhaps in a thousand years, some thing will consider a rock wall and think about a time on earth when that “now-extinct species of humans” briefly inhabited this planet. Let’s make ourselves proud of what those beings will say about us.

prev next