William Glassley’s A wilder time

William Glassley’s A wilder time: notes from a geologist at the edge of the greenland ice is about the field work that Prof. Glassley did with two of his colleagues over a long period of time in several lengthy stretches. The book is primarily about the geological aspects of the work. But, it is also about the reflections, meditations and ruminations of Glassley about wilderness and the greenland-ian (arctic tundra) landscape. For want of a better word, this is the closest one can get to “spirituality” in a science book.

Glassley’s writing flows lucidly and smoothly. He captures the sights, sounds as well as the feelings they evoked in him accurately and poetically. Here is an example passage from the book:

For the first time in my life, I felt as though I understood, to the extent I was capable, how utterly incomprehensible that world was for me. Nothing existed separate from any other part of the whole, and the whole was the entirety of the universe, from its very beginning. And there, in the quiet of the Arctic valley, one manifestation of that unity resided.

Time did not exist. The only difference between past and future is the interceding mind, which contemplates and describes and details differences, identifying species, speaking as though they are fixed in time and separate, when, in fact, they are incessantly, furiously changing — temporary, creative, individually unique and yet part of the indivisible whole. Humanity was simply one more experiment conducted by something so immensely incomprehensible that the outcome of the experiment had no importance.

And yet, in that great loneliness, the world was saturated by the beautiful. What surrounded me was stunning in its newness and harmony. Color, texture, form, and pattern flowed from one expression to another without incongruity. There was nothing familiar except the grossest of concepts (rock, water, air, cold); everything challenged comprehension.

Loneliness and cold made is uncomfortable to stay longer. As I stood, I surveyed the scene, trying to capture some pieces of it that I could share with Kai and John, but I realized I did not have the words to convey any of it.

Strongly recommended!

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