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Alone Together

by on August 6, 2014

                                                         Alone Together

                                                      by Marco M. Pardi

Note: All comments are appreciated, read, and responded to accordingly.  I will certainly look forward to your comments.

‘Tis very puzzling on the brink

Of what is called Eternity to stare,

And know no more of what is here, than there.”

Lord Byron, Don Juan, 1824

When I offered courses in Field Methods in Archaeology at two Central Florida colleges the rosters filled immediately.  People living in Central Florida will do anything to escape the daily reality facing them, even digging deep holes in the ground.

My interest in archaeology is both technical and mystical.  The protocol for a proper dig is exacting and extraordinarily complex; it is not at all a simple matter of pushing a shovel into the ground.  At the same time each gaze on a virgin site evokes wonder.  What lies beneath my feet, to what am I connected via the medium of what seems like plain dirt?  As a child this fascinated me, whether it was in the open fields of northern Ohio or a park in Firenze.  As a young man I laid atop sand dunes in the Sahara (after checking for sand vipers, scorpions, and unexploded land mines) staring into the moonless expanse of what seemed to be billions of stars.  The humidity was so low snapping one’s fingers could start a fire, or so it seemed.

But lying there, with only a general sense of global geography, I imagined a perpendicular straight line going through me, through the earth, and into a person on the other side of the globe.  Were they lying on their back, gazing up at a blue sky, feeling an itch on their back? 

There are many ways of defining what separates us.  Physical distance is only one.  It would be easy for me and tiresome for you were I to trot out everything I could think of.  And no doubt, if you were so inclined you could add to the list.

Several philosophies remind us that imagining something is concurrently the act of conjuring its opposite.  We cannot have a concept of Up without a concept of Down, and so on.  This is best expressed in the “Yin/Yang” symbol, even more so for those who understand the central point of the symbol as being Hsiang Sheng – Mutually Arising.  

But more down to earth, so to speak, is an epistemological issue in archaeology which is largely unknown by those casual readers interested in the field: the predilection of the archaeologist.  Having done our surface survey, dug test pits, and staked out our grid, we are ready to cut down 1 foot in depth.  At this point I ask the students to visualize the top foot of earth removed from the 30 meter square grid.  Where we previously saw grass and low shrubs we now see a level expanse of dirt speckled with a broad distribution of various objects, some stones, what might be pieces of pottery, what might be tools and the general detritus of a living site.  And here is the problem:  What you see is what you get.  The pertinent question here is, where did the initial image form?  Did the archaeologist come to the dig with a fixed and immutable image of what, for example, a chopper/chopping tool looks like, resisting suggestions to admit anything physically present but beyond that image into the category?  This problem lessens as we move closer in time to Homo sapiens, but it recurs in arguments over the purpose of Stonehenge and many other greater or lesser known sites and artifacts.  When looking at what might be evidence of the earliest tools, the arguments are still heated over whether we are looking at intentionally chipped stones or simply river bottom stones chipped by the tumult of flash flooding.  Many archaeologists have staked their careers on the position that early man made tools cannot have appeared before a certain date.  Others, perhaps hoping to authenticate ancient Vedic scriptures, are just as committed to defining these chipped rocks as proof of Man’s far earlier antiquity.

And so, as we encounter the speckled field of humans before our everyday eyes, we may unwittingly be categorizing them.  Again, it is too easy, too lengthy, and too boring to trot out all the ways we categorize the people who materialize before us.  But what of those memorable stand-outs?  That heart stopping young woman with her friends in the taverna in Lajes, Terceira Island, Azores (I was single then, with a job to do).  The sudden stillness, the air between us narrowing to a corridor sealing out peripheral sight and sound, stopping time, the flat affect betrayed by pupils swelling like oncoming buckshot.  This was no mere loin-join in an upstairs room, no easy roll-up with hair trigger smile and glass eyes.  It seemed certain that any electric appliance crossing between us must surely short out.  No, that corridor was impenetrable.  What alternate universe lay within those eyes?  Or was it merely my predilection,  my need to dig a deep hole and escape the violence and deception of my universe?  I will never know.

Not long ago I was in a You Tube discussion on the “Law of Attraction”.  A very popular meme with the New Age crowd, it must be said that this use of Law is in no way supported by or reflective of any scientific authority, as in: Association – Hypothesis – Theory – Law.  It’s a one word way of saying “We want it so.”  In fact, as the discussion began I sought clarity.  I said,  “I’ve heard like attracts like, and I’ve heard opposites attract.  So, which is it?”  Of course, the full paradigm is not spoken of in these circles, the repulsion which is the soul twin of every attraction.  The core idea of the Law of Attraction group seems to be that some intangible aspect of an individual recognizes and interacts with the correspondingly intangible aspect of another person, drawing them closer for reasons they do not consciously recognize.  However, there is no mention of an asymmetric attraction, the “love at first sight” versus the “bugger off, pervert.”  Interviews with stalkers might dissolve the strength of the law.  Yet, there is more – isn’t there always?

Lying atop that dune and gazing into the universe I did not know then what I know now;  the universe is not only expanding, it is doing so at an increasing rate.  Some internal force is expanding and as the inter-matrix of gravitation among the matter we know weakens, the speed increases.  Current astrophysics informs us the universe is composed of 68% dark energy, 27% dark matter, and slightly less than 5% “normal” matter.  Interestingly, we shouldn’t look for dark matter with big lights; dark matter is “dark” simply because it is not visible to us.  And, it is not confined to the deep reaches of space, it is everywhere, along with dark energy.  We have long known that within even the hardest and densest substance known to man we can, with proper magnification, understand that the electrons are further apart from each other relative to their size than are the stars of the visible universe.  The finger matter with which I punch these keys is, within itself mostly non-matter as we know it.  Yet, forms of matter remain coherent for periods of varying duration.  The gold ring buried with a Celtic noble is as new now as it was when first placed on the now long gone finger. 

So what am I, this swirling mass of habituated electrons as yet unable to break from the demanding relationship in my body and contributing to a dreary sameness from day to day?  Did my dark energy/dark matter entangle with that of the woman in the taverna, going on to live happily with her in some unseen two story house with an unseen picket fence and unseen dog in The Realm of the Great What If?  Or is the dark energy/dark matter I share with the universe the unseen reservoir of unforeseen circumstances, the place from which I occasionally observe “I didn’t know I had it in me.”          

While my “normal matter” parts sit here contemplating, perhaps my dark Angels and Demons will one day introduce themselves, bringing us alone together.

“Discovery consists of seeing what everybody has seen and thinking what nobody has thought.” Albert von Szent-Gyorgi in Irving, John Good, ed. The Scientist Speculates. 1962

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8 Comments
  1. There is so much again in here, but let me focus on one part that really was beautiful to read and ponder “But lying there, with only a general sense of global geography, I imagined a perpendicular straight line going through me, through the earth, and into a person on the other side of the globe. Were they lying on their back, gazing up at a blue sky, feeling an itch on their back”.
    A little poem in itself !! (and that must have been quite an itch 😉 !!)

  2. Thank you, FOAL. I often wonder what you are doing when I am doing what I am doing. Do our communications go through the Earth or around the Earth?

  3. Every paragraph of this post speaks to me, and yet I find myself unable to join in the conversation. Each time I try, it is as if a field of static electricity stands in my way and keeps me out. I do not belong here.
    I’ve long had fantasies about being a part of a “dig”; moving one teaspoon of dirt at time and cleaning the solid bits that were discovered with a soft brush. I guess that’s a romantic way of looking at it, but to be the first one to see something in goodness knows how many centuries; could anything be more exciting?! I question how these things, once an everyday part of someone’s life, came to be so far below us. What were they like, those long-ago people?
    Time and distance separate me from those I care about in my current reality. I think of them, and wonder if they ever think of me. Are their dreams those of one who slumbers, or the wide-awake fantasies of someone who wishes they could come true?
    Enough!!! It is what it is; not what I wish it to be, and certainly what it could be if dreams became plans and plans became reality. Someday, if this planet lasts long enough, maybe someone will dig with a teaspoon and wonder about us. Rose

  4. Thank you, Rose. I regret not being able to offer that class often. We dug up part of the campus and the administration got concerned. Maybe that’s where they were stashing their higher salaries.

    Yes, archaeology is fascinating, and obviously mystical to me. Maybe someday.

  5. Dear Rose, I apologize for being a bit short in my reply. I was engaged in helping a family with their 2nd death in 3 weeks, this time the retired Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of all Italian Military and Italy’s respresentative to NATO.

    You, and perhaps me, are a citizen beyond time and place. Since the appearance of ealry Homo sapiens we can, through cranial analysis and other measures, be sure their cognition was just as ours today, wondering the same things we do and, sadly, often facing the flat existence so many of us sometimes fall into today. Our gadgets are different, our minds are not.

    I also wonder about people I have known and wonder if they remember me. One of the most liberating experiences I’ve ever had was encountering a person from the past and seeing no signs at all of recognition.

    Strange world. We concern ourselves so much with the 5% we perceive, yet I strain to understand the 95% we don’t. Marco

    • Please never imagine that you owe me an apology for anything; that which required your time is obviously far more vital than answering my poor comment. It is a source of pride that someone I am permitted to call friend possesses the skill set which allows such an important contribution to the lives of those in such need.

      I learned long ago that the cranial dimensions of early Homo sapiens was comparable to our own, leaving them capable of thoughts equal to that of modern man. The main difference, I would suppose, is that the knowledge pool from which we may draw has grown deeper over these many years. One has only to live in the South to surmise that, for so many, the thought process itself has remained much the same.

      In my small part of the world, I am primarily invisible. It always surprises me when I am recognized by someone, and frequently embarrassed that I have no memory of them. When I come across someone who I remember, and that someone seems not to remember me, I make no effort to join in conversation with them; there is no point. It does, however, please me beyond measure that you not only remembered me, but chose to continue that long-ago conversation.

      Strange world, indeed: Reality is what it is…or is it? There’s no such thing as solid matter, particles behave differently depending on whether they are being observed, and infinity is expanding. How can any of this be true, and yet….. It makes the head spin!

      Having you back in my world these past few years has given me both reason and opportunity to think. My reality has expanded because you are in it. Rose

  6. Thank you for your comment. I look forward to more, on other articles as well. Marco

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