Thursday, 3 May 2007

An Australian Experience-landscape and age

The relatively young country of Australia was founded on a continent of extremely ancient land, formed at a time about 60 million years ago. Time beyond imagination has passed, leaving, erasing, and reforming traces on this continent in countless rounds. Time for the human race, on the other hand, is short and matters little in this long process. Strolling along Australian coastlines or venturing into inert and motionless outback, this sense of agelessness is helplessly overwhelming.
The great state of Victoria boasts a famous Great Ocean Road wondering along the southeastern coast of Melbourne, a stunning scenic drive stretching over 400 kilometres. The coastlines along this road attest to the forever aging process of the nature. The famous "London Bridge" had its name from a wide and thick section of rocks linking the shore to a pillar standing in the water, an arch resembling a bridge of man made. The "bridge" felt and looked solid enough to carry groups of sightseers. One sunny day two decades ago, I took pictures of that bridge and walked with my wife to the other side of the bridge like walking on a track field. It is hard to explain in words when you were actually at a place hundreds of yards from the shore while you were still dry and could run around on "solid" ground, hollow underneath. The waves fumed loudly over twenty metres down, pounding hard on the bank, retreating and pounding again. From the top of the bridge platform, one felt safe to watch all these spectacular scenes of sky, ocean, and rocks in one amazingly coordinated setting.
Unfortunately, that pounding washed away the shorelines inch by inch, and finally succeeded in knocking off the "bridge". The section of earth and rock which supported passing tourists and sightseers gave way to weight and collapsed on January 15 1990. My pictures taken in 1998 could only catch the sight of something nowhere near a bridge. The local tourist bureau reluctantly changed the name to London Arch, as a lone and unapproachable stack standing awkwardly in roaring waves.
Nearby along the Road, another hot spot of sightseeing is "Twelve Apostles", with a dozen or so pillar rocks standing separate and alone in sea water, in the shapes of chimney or watch tower. It is not hard to link these separate rock pillars to the now defunct London Bridge. These were the bridges ages ago, standing there over a long time span of perhaps tens of thousands of years, and from losing the arch section due to erosion and pounding of powerful waves they became the apostles we see today. The nature works in mysterious ways, as one never can tell if one rock formation is going to disappear tomorrow or in 10,000 years. Time changed it all, and forms of rocks are merely testaments to the presence of unending change. No matter how solid and formidable a rock bridge is in the eyes of human, it is temporary and stands no chance against the almighty time. I reckon the "London Bridge" is the best place to imagine the moving experience summed up in a common Chinese sweat talk for love or marriage proposal, "when seas dry up and rocks turn to dust", proclaiming the eternity of one's love feelings.
Age cut deep into earth. With no humans or even life form around, the universe runs its natural course of formation and dissolution. "May the Force be with you". In Chinese philosophies, this force is the "Way", unexplained and self-generated functioning and running of the universe, rather than the deliberate making by an almighty God. The formation of things was meaningless, senseless, and purposeless, in a casual and even careless manner. No life beings were able to live that long to view a formation in full, and even early tribes as first settlers on this vast land felt nothing of these formations. The nature has its own ways.
We can be sure that the abrupt ending of the splendid London bridge there in fact happened numerous times in the past. This is nothing unique or spectacular to the earth and the forces; it is only when the human race held the sense of awe that these things became the subjects of admiration or even worshipping. Imagine when the human race cease to be active or evaporates for some reason, the earth will continue to run its course to mould or dissolve rock bridges or apostles as it goes. To an outsider, an alien perhaps, nothing worthwhile has happened before and the marks the human race left may well be even less visible than those rocks in shapes of chimney or watch tower.
It is in this regard that the long age of the Australian continent needs to be fully appreciated. This illustration provides an acute reference point to the popular claim of "end of history" in recent years. It is bluntly clear to people with common sense that there is hardly an end of history. Of course, if lunacy and triumphalism went over board, the human race can be brought to an abrupt end, without doing much to the course of earth rotation. The universe will also create planets similar to the third rock from the sun and foster some life forms or other. To regard the working and intelligence of humans at this particular stage as supreme forever and an ultimate conclusion to all seems to have far stretched the truth, at least an odd way of portraying a baby step forward as a great leap in knowledge.
I understand that the "end of history" claim is more complicated than this and is fairly down to earth political and ideological. The core of it reflects people's desire to set up frameworks to believe the existence of an end, a kind of utopia or climax. This kind of reasoning also identifies a certain power to be the bearer of that eventuality, be it Germany, the Soviet Union, or more recently the United States. This episode of triumphant outburst just shows how in the heat of euphoria a shocking and sensational catchphrase can be rashly coined by some genius and how a disregard of reality in evolution tossed people and their minds off the balance. In a somewhat awkward comparison, the blue print of the Third Reich of one thousand years was perhaps more practically and less grandly drafted. It is painfully clear that the human race is prone to misconception and muddling, and it has yet reached a stage of genuine process with satisfactory balances. Grand schemes and various types of new world order are simply illusive designs by humans unaware of their fatal limitations in facing the tyranny of time. Unprecedented great achievements in one's life time strengthen egos, leading to further disillusions of invincibility and over-confidence in making reckless decisions which involve and endanger people's lives. Time will tell and ridicule those once powerful and belligerent.

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