1.3) My Life As A Rock Monster

...Reality is not really about things as they are (infinite), it's about the temporary relation between things. Just points in space. The archaeology of an explosion. Einstein called it Special Relativity. I call it having lots of relatives.

2,600 years ago, a grandson made this monument to remember his Appa and Thatha. "Pa-inmu and his father It." They looked good. (664-610 BC)

I took the oldest man on the train today. He can't hear too great so we don't talk much, but it's a comfortable silence. I like that about him. He's the least obtrusive houseguest imaginable. He just asks for a little extra sugar in his tea. The old man had to bunk with the children, who crawled all over him, screamed in his ear, and were generally on their worst behavior. He loved it. What a blessing to be crawled on by your great-grandchildren. We should all be so lucky.

When I see the oldest man in the family (93) hold the youngest (4) I can see it. I can see the chain. Reproduction is just the capitalist word for rebirth. We have been reborn so much that we're related to everything and everyone. And you don't even need blood to catch this feeling. That connection is available between any of us, because we actually are all connected. We're all family. You can catch that new grandson feeling from an adopted child, from a lover, from a friend, from a dog. Hell, you can even get it from a rock. Which I was for the longest time. Literally aeons.

If you think of me, I'm mostly water, H₂O. And H₂O is mostly frozen across the universe. It's mostly rocks. So I'm really a rock monster. Universally speaking, we all are. Rock on.

It's crazy but true that there is a logical chain of events connecting every bit of me to the beginning of time, to the beginning of life. It's not just my germ line, the genital connection between all of us. It's all the living things I eat. All the water that makes up my body. All the weed I smoke. All the oxygen I breathe. Who's to say any part of me is the only me. Even beyond the philosophical debate, how boring. If you look past your nuts, you can see the stars.

Our connection to rocks goes both backwards and forwards. Ashes from ashes, dust from dust. We self-assembled as space rocks, stone monuments will survive the longest, and we'll ultimately return to the elements. It's all carved in stone. The ancients had it right when they built pyramids. They were also right to believe in the end of the world, as most religions do.

In his story about the end of the world (spoiler alert), Cixin Liu shows us a doomed Earth trying to record a message for posterity, if there is any. Scientists are tasked with finding some way to preserve information for a billion years, which is harder than it looks. Hard disks could preserve information for about five thousand years. Laserdiscs could last 100,000. Paper was even better at 200,000. Humanity lowered the scope to preserving information for 100 million years and told the scientists to get back to work.

What solution did these (fictional) characters find?

“So they told me that, according to the most advanced theories and techniques in every field, based on extensive theoretical research and experimentation, through analysis and comparison of multiple proposals, they did find a way to preserve information for about one hundred million years. And they emphasized that this was the only method known to be practicable. Which is—” Luo Ji lifted the cane over his head, and as his white hair and beard danced in the air, he resembled Moses parting the Red Sea. Solemnly, he intoned, “—carving words into stone.”

So a humanity that came from rocks, to rocks returned. Before (even bigger spoiler alert) higher beings folded up the dimensions of this universe like a dirty napkin and put in the bin. Wonderful book. Check it out.

My point here is a metaphorical one which you also find in the common Bible saying "ashes to ashes, dust to dust." As the Holy Quran says, beautifully describing evolution:

وَلَقَدْ خَلَقْنَا ٱلْإِنسَـٰنَ مِن سُلَـٰلَةٍۢ مِّن طِينٍۢ ١٢

And indeed, We created humankind1 from an extract of clay,
then placed each ˹human˺ as a sperm-drop^ in a secure place,

then We developed the drop into a clinging clot ˹of blood˺, then developed the clot into a lump ˹of flesh˺, then developed the lump into bones, then clothed the bones with flesh, then We brought it into being as a new creation. So Blessed is Allah, the Best of Creators.

I say this describes evolution because it does. Life arises from the muck. DNA emerges as a stable storage system. It evolves into invertebrates, through vertebrates, to us. Blessed is Allah.

We are all able to, dimly, love ourselves, our children, our parents, our lovers. This comes natural to every human. We're naturally inclined to love this body, the mother we came from, the lover we're trying to get into. We're literally born this way.

What comes less natural is loving the rest of the natural world. And what's completely alien is loving rocks and inanimate objects. They're literally dead to us. But we're all just one dust cloud on the edge of an explosion. Sometimes the cloud is icy, sometimes it's liquid, sometimes it's on fire. In the long run, that's all we leave to the universe. Our body breaks down and we return to the elements.

When we die, we melt like ice monsters, flesh leaking off the bone. Our H₂O disperses, then breaks apart into hydrogen and oxygen. All we ultimately leave is a brief smear of carbon on the fossil record. We lived as rock monsters and we die as rock monsters. We rock on.