dog-eared passages from J.M. Ledgard’s Submergence
"On a planetary scale, birds crawl."
"We’re nature’s brief experiment with self-awareness. Any study of the ocean and what lies beneath it should serve notice of how easily the planet might shrug us off."
"If this was happening in a science-fiction world we would see it clearly for what it is, but we don’t because it is happening here and now." [regarding climate change and the destruction of seamounts]
"… is man the joker god Loki, who must be bound in chains?" [also in regards to climate change and the anthropocene]
"Millions and millions of years ago we lived in the ocean. When we emerged we had to move in two dimensions, instead of three. That was painful at first. No up, nor any down. We learned to drag ourselves along without legs then with them, going faster and faster, and faster again, by any means. The lack of a third dimension is one explanation for our need to head out over the horizon. Another explanation is that we were raised up from chemosynthetic life in the deep ocean to become photosynthetic life at the top. Having ascended from the eternal night we cannot stop ourselves from heading towards the light. We are moths in the thrall of the sun and the stars, shedding off darkness. That is our instinct, but our conscious nature is also to be drawn to the unknown. We want to know what is behind the wood, what the next valley looks like, and the valley beyond that. We want to know what is in the sky and what is behind the sky. Those have been our obsessions since our beginnings, yet the curiosity does not extend to the ocean. We forget there is so much darkness in our world, and to be out on a beach is lucky. We know the tides, because they cover the edges of our countries and swell our river mouths and fill our fishing nets, but the connection with the ocean has been lost. If it is described at all, it is a tomb or a hiding place. Even Tennyson needed the Kraken to batter huge sea worms in its sleep until the last fires heated the deep. Moby-Dick is the greatest novel in the English language about the sea. It is not concerned with the ocean. Only at the end of the book is there a sense of sinking and what is beneath, when the Pequod twists into a whirlpool and a death shroud of water closes over it and calms, rolling as it did five thousand years ago…"
“Even Nabokov foresaw a Jetson future of silent planes and graceful aircycles and a universal system of padded underground roads. Although, being Nabokov, being a lepidopterist, he had a floating sense of perspective. ‘As to the past,’ he wrote, ‘I would not mind retrieving from some corners of space-time certain lost comforts, such as baggy trousers and long, deep bathtubs.’”
“The longest golf drive recorded was hit on the moon. Man has yet to return to the Challenger Deep. The lesson from this is that it is easier for human beings to push outwards than it is for them to explore inwards.”
"To push inward is hard, to descend even more so; it challenges our sense of who we are and where we came from. This is why, even though we are inundated with seawater, the advances of our oceanographic agencies do not match those of our space agencies."
"He envied Victorian explorers for having such obvious goals and for the contrast they experienced between the world they discovered and the world they returned to."
"His mind was supple, the mind of a future head of intelligence, who believed the greatest service he could offer in the complicated present was to help people catch up emotionally with where they stood historically."
"That’s interesting about the crossing. According to the evidence, genetic and archaeological, irrefutable. I’d say, but I don’t want to rain on anyone’s parade, every non-African in the world is descended from a band of thirty or so humans who made it across the Gate of Tears some sixty thousand years ago, walking and wading, and perhaps on rafts from Africa to Arabia. We’re all African. Nearly all of our genetic diversity is within us, not between races. Given a similar history of migration, any African tribe will turn blond and blue-eyed. We became curdy in France and black in the sun We’ve already escaped once as a species. We made it out of your Rift Valley to Somalia and then to the Middle East. There were no more than a few thousand of us left alive." π "That’s all I can’t believe it. We must have been outnumbered at every watering hole by monkeys." π "What this means, genetically, is that every living person who is not African is a descendant of one of those individuals who crossed the Red Sea, while every African is a descendant of those who stayed, give or take some mixing." She pointed at herself as if to say voila! "This explains the genetic diversity in Africa, where a villager may be further removed from his neighbor than you are a from Polynesian. This is exodus."
"Kropotkin believed in the prehuman origin of moral instincts, a mutual aid that draws us together:
Whenever I saw animal life in abundance, as, for instance, on the lakes where scores of species and millions of individuals came together to rear their progeny; in the colonies of rodents; in the migrations of birds, which took place at that time on a truly American scale along the Usuri; and especially in a migration of fallow deer which I witnessed on the Amur, and during which scores of thousands of these intelligent animals came together from an immense territory, flying before the coming deep snow, in order to cross the Amur where it is narrowest, in all these scenes of animal life which passed before my eyes, I saw Mutual Aid and Mutual Support carried on to an extent which made me suspect in if a feature of the greatest importance for the maintenance of life, the preservation of each species, and its further evolution.
In other words, the unsociable species is doomed. Kropotkin’s example of the deer crossing the Amur still intrigues. How did the deer understand their common cause was to cross the Amur River in greatest numbers at its narrowest point? How many of them were swept away in discovering the narrowest point? Did the birds give the deer a clue? When the deer found the narrowest point how did they agree upon it? Were there deer who refused to support the decision? Dissenters? Mutual aid extends to man. In exile, Kropotkin interviewed a Kentish boatman who risked his life to save some drowning souls. What had made him row out into the storm?
"I don’t rightly know myself," said the boatman to the prince, "I saw men clinging to the mast, I heard their cries, and all at once I thought: I must go!"
There are other examples, as of the old man in Karelia who dug his grave in the summer as a service to his villager in the winter, when the earth was frozen hard. Or the mutual aid practiced by the crews of the Hansa trading ships on the Baltic and the North Sea who, if they were caught in a storm and believed they would drown, proclaimed each man to be the equal of the other, and all to be at the mercy of God and the waves.
If the ancient hunter-gatherer Boni are known at all it is for the version of Kropotkin’s mutual aid they practice with a bird they call mirsi. They whistle to mirsi and mirsi whistles back. It leads the Boni to the wild honey in the trees in the bush. The Boni shin up the trees and smoke out the hives, taking the honey and honeycombs, being sure to leave the bird a generous share in wax and bee larvae.
If you talk about the acceleration that is in the world, you have to talk about the advances in computational power. There was a recent momentous day when a computer at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico achieved petaflop speed. One thousand trillion calculations a second. How to conceive of such a rate? If everyone in the world were given a pocket calculator and ordered to tap out sums for six hours a day, it would take them until the twenty-fourth century to match the calculations a petaflop computer can perform in a day.
The exaflop is the next step in the history of computing: one quintillion calculations a second. Then the zetraflop, yottaflop, and the xeraflop. The goal is nothing less than to slow down time and colonize it. Of course, a petaflop computer uses more electricity than the power grid of an African city. Then there is the problem of asking useful questions of it.
He felt that the search for extraterrestrial life was compromised by surface chauvinism: it looked only on the outside of planets, moons, and rocks, not deep in the cracks where it was more likely to be. She agreed. Man’s fixation with facades, with outward appearances, was another reason why there was not more interest in oceanography.
He was a pocket of moisture, emptying into the sand.
Etienne believed that, in geological terms, man was going to be a short-lived species. “we are poisonous. We are quick. We are the noodles of evolution.”
"Instant noodles," she said. If the world kept spinning, if the waters held in, the deep would be constant until the end of geological time. Instantly made, instantly gone. If a man had a sense of proportion, he would die of shame. His salvation was that he lived in denial. She had not given up, but it was in the balance. Homo sapiens was either at the start of a very long journey, or close to the end of a very short one. If it was to be an odyssey, the history that had passed since Sumer would come to seem priceless and savage. If it was to be a short venture, man’s mark would be the rubbish he had buried in the ground.
"Even eating our way through cows, apples, everything, in our billions, you know we’re nothing compare dot the life down there. That life can’t be destroyed, it feeds on death — or less than death — it reconfigures and goes further in, into hotter water."
We cannot talk with definition about our souls, but it is certain that we will decompose. Some dust of our bodies may end up in a horse, wasp, cockerel, frog, flower, or leaf, but for every one of these sensational assemblies there are a quintillion microorganisms. It is far likelier that the greater part of us will become protists than a skyscraping dormouse. What is likely is that, sooner or later, carried in the wind and in rivers, or your graveyard engulfed in the sea, a portion of each of us will be given new life in the cracks, vents, or pools of molten sulphur on which the tonguefish skate.
You will be in Hades, the staying place of the spirits of the dead. You will be drowned in oblivion, the River Lethe, swallowing water to erase all memory. It will not be the nourishing womb you began your life in. It will be a submergence. You will take your place in the boiling-hot fissures, among the teeming hordes of nameless microorganisms that mimic no forms, because they are the foundation of all forms. In your reanimation you will be aware only that you are a fragment of what once was, and are no longer dead. Sometimes this will be an electric feeling, sometimes a sensation of the acid you eat, or the furnace under you. You will burgle and rape other cells in the dark for a seeming eternity, but nothing will come of it. Hades is evolved to the highest state of simplicity. It is stable. Whereas you are a tottering tower, so young in evolutionary terms, and addicted to consciousness.
But death is remorseless. Death is the tide that sweeps away consciousness. It is the absolute zero that stops any acceleration. Poetry speaks of the ocean as a tomb, whereas science reckons it to be a womb. If you must waste away or perish violently in the morning light then a burial at sea might resolve this conflicted view. Lash me in a hammock and drop me deep … Would you wish to be sunk to a great depth, or to be dropped a fathom down, on a reef, gently rocked, until your bones are of corals made and you suffer a sea change into something rich and strange?
She admired the musculature of ballet dancers, but understood that they were liquid beings, trailing tendril lives. The gas bladders of fish burst and filled their mouths when the net was winched up. Salp lost structure, died, and became indefinable at the surface. All living creatures were at some point disassembled. It was only a question of where the parts ended up and were made into something new. The volume of life in the deep, its complexity and self-organization, would over millions of years take in that disassembled from the land as it crumbled into the sea and was washed away by rivers and rain…
The latte is in the Italian style; its beans were from Ethiopia and its milk from the San Joaquin Valley, where the dairy industry was founded mostly by Portuguese and Netherlandish immigrants (as well as Armenian, Danish, Swiss, Ligurian, …), and now the workers are largely Mexican (and Guatemalan, Honduran, …). For lunch, Basque cheese on French-style bread, and some pork bao from a Taiwanese restaurant that sells them frozen. (Yesterday: leftover hybridized Shandong noodles in the morning, hybridized Punjabi buffet with friends for lunch, and hybridized Chilango take-out for dinner.) I washed with Togolese soap in the morning, and I’m typing on China- and Malaysia-assembled electronics from Japanese keiretsu/zaibatsu and Korean chaebŏl, and someone out by the lake is playing Afro-Caribbean pop. My synthetic shirt was made in Cambodia, and my cotton shorts in Indonesia; the label’s worn off my flip-flops so I’m not sure. In other words, jokes about eagles and guns aside, I am having an extremely American day. I’m even in California, America’s America: beautiful, dysfunctional, dominant, infuriatingly calm about itself, vastly more diverse and complex than even the best informed and most charitable outsider gives it credit for, built on bones, overflowing with demagogues, decadent, permanently reinventing itself. If this is a clichéed and sentimental observation, what’s a holiday for?
— Charlie Loyd
We cannot talk with definition about our souls, but it is certain that we will decompose. Some dust of our bodies may end up in a horse, wasp, cockerel, frog, flower, or leaf, but for every one of these sensational assemblies there are a quintillion microorganisms. It is far likelier that the greater part of us will become protists than a skyscraping dormouse. What is likely is that, sooner or later, carried in the wind and in rivers, or your graveyard engulfed in the sea, a portion of each of us will be given new life in the cracks, vents, or pools of molten sulphur on which the tonguefish skate. You will be in Hades, the staying place of the spirits of the dead. You will be drowned in oblivion, the River Lethe, swallowing water to erase all memory. It will not be the nourishing womb you began your life in. It will be a submergence. You will take your place in the boiling-hot fissures, among the teeming hordes of nameless microorganisms that mimic no forms, because they are the foundation of all forms. In your reanimation you will be aware only that you are a fragment of what once was, and are no longer dead. Sometimes this will be an electric feeling, sometimes a sensation of the acid you eat, or the furnace under you. You will burgle and rape other cells in the dark for a seeming eternity, but nothing will come of it. Hades is evolved to the highest state of simplicity. It is stable. Whereas you are a tottering tower, so young in evolutionary terms, and addicted to consciousness.
— J.M. Ledgard, Submergence
This is The Name of The Wind. Buy it.
The Name of The Wind is my book suggestion of the year. I read it about six months ago and I’m still thinking about it. It is the best book I have read in years, fantasy or otherwise.
The Name of The Wind needs to be the next book you read. And the next book after that, I can guarantee, will be the second in the Kingkiller Chronicles “The Wise Man’s Fear.”
I am a Harry Potter fan, you probably are a Harry Potter fan as well. But, in the years since you read Harry Potter, you’ve grown up a bit. This is the book that Harry Potter fans have been looking for. It’s not a book for Harry Potter fans…it’s just a book that I think people who loved Harry Potter and are now in their 20s or 30s would REALLY REALLY ENJOY.
I bought this book because I was in the book store and I tweeted “BOOK SUGGESTIONS PLEASE” and about 12 people suggested it. I am so thankful to those 12 people.
The world is so deep, the stakes are so high, the characters so real, the mysteries so magical, the magic so mysterious, the plot so twisty…every day you haven’t read it is a day in your life that could be better.
I do not take this review lightly…buy this book. Buy it now. On Amazon or, preferably, at your local book store.
If you love The Name of The Wind, reblog.
Hank, make your brother read this book, and once Dave is finished with it, make John read it too.