The Law of Superposition and Context

It wasn't until yesterday as I was speaking with a college rep that I realized my passion for geology and storytelling have endless parallels.  No wonder I love them both.  Let's see if I can put it into words.

In Geology sediments stack up and are compressed to form sedimentary rocks.  The Law of Superposition states that older sediments will be beneath younger sediments.  Simple.  Common sense.  Now, using knowledge of various natural processes we can determine how the rocks formed, what they were before, what the weather and the atmosphere was like.  The general ages of the layers give a timeline to those processes.  The processes shape the rocks and they can tell a story about the past.  So can we.  So can everything else in nature.  If we understand what we are looking at and what rules made it happen.  What are our rules?

Storytelling for me is no different.  The environment of a story is made up of the other characters, the mood, the events... these are the processes that shape the timeline and the characters.  They provide the context to how our characters came to be who they are.  If you think about metamorphosis with either rocks or people the general idea is the same.   You can have 3 siblings who start off as different "elements" but are placed in the same environment and shaped by the same processes.  However, because they started off different to begin with, the end product is also different.  I was watching Cosmos the other night and I saw a side-view of the projected universe since the big bang.  Layers. Everything effects everything else.  One product yields another and time, pressure & heat shape what happens next.  I see this applying to everything, living or non-living.

When I tell a story about an area I love to dig deep to provide context.  I think it's important to provide a sense of the environment at the time when the character was being created.  When I researched my family tree I didn't just look at the people, I looked at where they lived and the current events at the time.  My great grandparents weren't just living in Chicago, they were living in Little Hell, the Sicilian area named for the black smoke that poured out of the factories into the air.  They were there when Al Capone made his debut around the corner.  I looked at old maps and saw where my great grandpa worked.  I even researched the church that baptized my grandmother.  I saw Death Corner, the favorite hangout spot for Sicilian mafiosos on the same street as that church and school, one street over from where my family was eeking out a living.  I saw the bars a block away that were bootlegging for Capone.  I could see why they moved when they did.  Their story is so much more interesting when you have all that context.  This wasn't just a tale of some Italian immigrants that had a census, and then another census, and then moved and showed up in a different census.  Every change has a reason and consequences.  Every action has a reaction.

When we dig deep and look at the environment of our ancestors we're seeing our base.  What they did lead to what we did and their environment at the time is what shaped their decisions to act.  Our history... all of it (biological, political, social)... is in layers.  Concentric circles that spiral outward and grow more and more as time goes by.  Change is not only inevitable, it's vital to the next layer.  You can't continue to build a future if there is no past as a base.

I am interested in absolutely every single layer of time and how it all relates to everything else.  I love learning about the formation of the universe, evolution, geology, fossils, archaeology, ancient mythology, civil wars, the dust bowl, global warming, ice ages, literature, politics, social experiments, primitive medicine... everything.  Because it all shaped us and it's the base for the next part of the story.

This is how my brain functions.  I see all the connections and how they relate to each other.  I see it clearly and it makes me feel insignificant but incredibly important all at the same time.  When I think about everything that exists I see infinite bigness and infinite smallness: every tiny thing is made of tinier things and those tiny things are part of big things which are parts of bigger things.  I apply this to  matter.  I apply this to time.  When you think of these things in infinite terms it means exploration and discovery will never cease.  One day we'll be able to see further out into the universe.  One day we'll be able to see the smaller bits that make atoms.  It all just keeps going and going... I love thinking about it.  I love researching it.

So, that's what I've been doing over the blog break... a whole lot of thinking and research.
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