A Meditation on Rocks

Updated: Sep 28, 2020

I was watching a National Geographic show the other night about secrets of the parting of the Red Sea. With fancy 3-D computer imaging, drones, photogrammetry, and satellite data, the scientists were able to create a plausible story for where the Israelites crossed and how the water moved, but they couldn’t figure out how the water suddenly returned and drowned the Egyptians. They concluded the drowning was from another time, an earlier time when the volcano at Thera erupted.

I was surprised. I’ve been studying the effects of that volcano for 23 years. It was the largest volcanic eruption in historic time: the equivalent of 2 million atomic bombs. 42 billion tons of rock shot 22 miles into the air causing hundreds of tsunamis. Tsunamis that easily traveled 500 miles and drowned Egyptians. It was heard 200 miles away in Greece and even further. The myth of Atlantis was born, an island that fell out of favor with the deities disappearing into the sea. In the Book of Exodus, it says “v’el daber emanu elohim p'en namut let not god speak with us, lest we die.” The power balance changed in the Mediterranean and the goddess-focused Minoans were conquered by the militaristic Myceneans. And the rest, as they say, is history.

In 1997, I stood on what is left of the island of Thera. It’s shaped like a crescent hugging the caldera. With my mind’s eye, I could envision the eruption, the deep hole before me that a moment before had been a mountain. A corpus of stones surrounded my feet, the kind I used to throw over streetlights in the dusk and skip into Little Lake Sunapee. Who gives a thought to rocks, where they came from, what they are. The rocks of Thera are old. I picked one up and held god in my hand. I thought about that moment of the eruption, that one moment that changed western civilization forever, changed our lives, changed our values, it changed everything. The sound they say was louder than anything ever heard except perhaps for the cry of the sailors, returning to find, instead of their homes, a mile-deep hole being filled in by the sea.

An Ode to the Immeasurable Mystery of Life

By Jennifer Williamson

To move through the world transparently—

Wouldn’t that just be nice?

To not pin things down

And tie them up,

Wouldn’t it be a relief—

To not have to identify

With everything,

And sometimes even anything?

I’d like to just live in the world,

Just for a glimpse,

Without needing to be

Of the world,

Without a label or a word

For everything.

Are the dead

More alive

Than the living?

I wonder if we should

Stop wondering about everything.