01 Dec Punctuated Discontinuity
The journeys that once-living organisms embark on toward the fossil record, few rarely complete. Decay or disintegration destroys more remains than not. And rocks exposed at Earth’s surface don’t chronicle all of the planet’s past. Tectonic upheavals, such as the forces that made the Rocky Mountains, and unending erosion see to that. We live among relics and ruins of former worlds.
And what remains of our own lives and experiences in the passage of time? I’ve long wondered if history might be more about forgetting and deletion than about remembering and completion.
[dropcap]L[/dropcap]ike the rock and fossil records I have studied, the past I’ve emerged from is pitted by gaps formed across time. Punctuated discontinuity rather than layered continuity. Erosion. Displacement. Upheaval.
We can take many lessons from Earth’s annals. As much as some might wish it, it’s not possible to retrieve a tidy, intact, and complete history of human experience on this continent from repositories of the past. Documentary records are fragments—and their existence is not a matter of unbiased preservation or re-collection. No single or simple narrative can claim the authority of history or of collective memory.