In the eighteenth and nineteenth chapters of The Science of Discworld, the ocean is terrifying, and it SHOULD be. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Discworld.
It’s no surprise at this point that my upbringing has played a large part in who I am today, and these reviews have given me the chance to talk about a lot of things I never really get to discuss! So I feel conformable enough admitting that a thought popped in my head while reading about the formation of our atmosphere and seas:
This was why I was taught that evolution was impossible.
The “perfect” way that the world fits together was always given as evidence that it must have been designed, and to some extent, I believed that. When you’re younger, the world feels huge and impossible. I guess it still does some days, but I mean this in the sense that it was simply easier to believe what I was taught. Some being created all of this, made a world that humans could within, and then designed it so that we’d be on top.
It didn’t take long for me to realize how bullshit this was. By the time I got to junior high, I’d learned enough about the planet to know that it didn’t fit together purposely. The world was always in conflict with other parts of it. Animals ate one another; living things broke down and decomposed; junk sat and rusted in pits spread across the globe. It wasn’t perfect by any means! Of course, there were other (and more personal) things going on in my life that dissuaded me from believing that this existence had been created just for us. Even when I became weirdly religious in the most ineffective teenage rebellion of all time, I never could accept what the nuns and priests told us about the creation of the universe.
But I knew people who justified Creationism by regurgitating some of the facts heard here. How could the world just happen to evolve an atmosphere where humans and other creatures could breathe? How did a hot, molten planet develop seas and oceans? It can’t have been an evolutionary process set over billions of years! It was God, and he made the world perfect. Well, most Christians I knew were split on this point: some believed that all evidence of evolution or that the Earth was billions of years old was fake and a tool of the devil. Others believed that God merely guided evolution himself!
This isn’t an attempt to criticize anyone for believing in a god or gods AND evolution, but more a reflection on how my life was explained by others. I view my own growth as a person as my willingness to start explaining things from my own learning, rather than just assuming what I was told. At the same time, the ocean was a sacred thing to my father and my father’s side of the family. I’ve never identified as Hawaiian, despite that I was raised by a Hawaiian man, but I still have an affinity for much of what that side of the family taught me. I was raised with a healthy respect for the ocean. I was quite young when my family first went to Hawaii after my adoptive parents got married, so the sea has been a constant in my life. It thrilled me and it scared me. It was always so impossibly huge, so full of things to be careful of, yet I associate happiness and peace with it. Just SEEING large bodies of water can calm me down!
Those trips to Hawaii were life-affirming, renewing. My grandparents taught us where it was best to snorkel and how to avoid the tourist crowds; we were taught never to put anything in the ocean that didn’t belong there, and yes, that included our bodies. The ocean was not ours for the taking; we were to always consider ourselves guests. The first time I saw a sea turtle was off Oahu; the first time I saw a colorful reef was off the North Shore; the first time I felt the terrifying grip of a riptide was off Waikiki.
It’s no surprise that I have gravitated to coasts ever since I could. I moved to Long Beach, then stayed in Los Angeles for years; the Bay Area, for all its problems, kept me right next to the ocean. And now, I have an entire Ocean I haven’t explored aside from one trip to Miami. Even that blew my mind. A couple years ago, Baize and I swam in the Atlantic after midnight, the only illumination provided by the moon. It was romantic, frightening, heart-stopping.
I wish we as a people appreciated just how unique and incredible our oceans really are
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