At the turn of the twentieth century, there were two theories bandied about to explain the curious matching of coastlines, most notably the near-perfect spooning of South America into Africa.
One theory put forward was that Earth must have been much smaller in the past and then expanded—like a balloon—forcing the coastlines apart.
The other theory was that the continents simply lost interest in each other and over millennia gradually drifted apart.
Originally, the Expanding Earth theory held the dominant sway among those concerned with such phenomena while Continental Drift held little. But over the ensuing decades of research, the two theories reversed their polarity and now Continental Drift has gone mainstream relegating Expanding Earth to a back eddy of angry comic book artists ranting late night on myspace.
I drift. And why not?
It’s good enough for continents; why not me?
The problem with an Expanding Earth is that there’s no known (or plausible) source for that expansion. Where’s all the extra matter coming from and what’s moving it? Whereas Continental Drift has a clear energy source, Expanding Earth has none. You can’t move anything, least of all continents, without energy.
Continental Drift’s energy source emanates from the earth’s core where gravity (the Earth’s and the Sun’s) is heating up the mantle and causing convection to put pressure upon the surface. A common analogy for this process is soup boiling on a stovetop causing its surface scum to move (continents are scum—you heard it here first).
Yes, Continents Drift.
But Whither They Wander, They Care Not.
I knew a man who insisted that medieval maps, with all their childlike inaccuracies, were in their day actually truthful depictions of the world at that time. In his understanding, it was Continental Drift that had rendered the maps inaccurate.
I should have asked if the fanciful marginalia depicting griffins, sea monsters, and galleon-devouring leviathans were also factual, they presumably having mysteriously died off just as the Age of Reason dawned, “Thar be monsters! Oh wait. Never mind, they’re gone now.”
There is an ocean of truth that separates how we perceive things and how they actually go. Imagine, as in the scenario above, if we had gone from Gondwanaland to the present setup in under 500 years. What a bumper-car ballet that would have been—land masses scudding across the seas, their inhabitants waving helplessly from the hilltops as they sailed past. Morocco would say “Farewell”, to Nova Scotia while “Hasta la vista!” would come a final chide from South Africa as Argentina departed bound for pars incognito. “Hey, mind your steppe!”, Nepal and Tibet would sneer in condescending unison at the careless approach of the Indian…ahem…sub-continent.
Other than deep time and incalculable amounts of basalt, what’s the difference between continents and people? If India were—half way along its route into Asia’s underbelly—suddenly to stop mid ocean and say to itself, “Where was I going with this again anyway?” Continents simply drift, but it’s fair to say they never digress.
Continents Drift, but People Digress
As previously discredited, Expanding Earth postulates that there was a smaller Earth, then something (magical) happened, and the Earth became larger. Expanding Earth is pure fantasy yet it does serve to explain how dreamers dream.
I don’t mean visionaries or people who live to see their dreams fulfilled. I mean, unrealistic people or any of us when we’re thinking unrealistically, because let’s face it, it’s in us all to waste a portion of our lives dreaming fruitless nonsense.
We think, in these times, “I’m small and then when something magical happens, I’ll be bigger.” But if we’re to affect real change in our lives, we have to follow the lead set by the continents under our feet. Such change requires constant pressure and patience—the universe is taking care of patience (in spades!)—so it’s our job to take care of pressure.
Continental Drift is sometimes a very personal matter, although in a general sense it can be summed up in the following six-step process:
Step 1: Set your course in the direction you want to go and then start going there. Talk to people, build your resources, take action, do things, most of all…apply pressure.
Step 2: Expect nothing (you’re not likely to see any results for a long time). Don’t miss this step—it’s very important.
Step 3: And don’t digress. Keep applying pressure in the direction you want to go.
Step 4: Eventually something’s going to give. It will happen like a jolt—like an earthquake. It may even seem like magic (it will certainly seem like magic to others who don’t see all the pressure you’ve been applying). You will have moved incrementally in the direction you want to go.
Step 5: After the jolt, the pressure will be released for a time. Nothing will start happening again. Don’t worry.
Step 6: Repeat steps 1 through 5.
That’s it! It’s not magic. Sometimes drifting moves mountains. Hell, it’s good enough for continents, so why not you?
“No man is an island,
entire of itself;
every man is a piece of the continent,
a part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less,
as well as if a promontory were.
as well as if a manor of thy friend’s
or of thine own were.
Any man’s death diminishes me,
because I am involved in mankind;
and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls;
it tolls for thee.”
—John Donne, 1572–1631