Whether it be the streets of a post-industrial northern town, or the rooftops of industry and domesticity, the evidence of extraction is all around us. Here I’m talking specifically of stone; this stuff of Earth, the body of Earth, formed over millennia; the ubiquitous foundation to our surroundings, and consciously or unconsciously, our sense of place, our sense of home.
The uniqueness of the qualities of stone, made through the wondrous, epic, and violent movements of Earth have drawn out human creativity from the very beginning of our time.
From small hillside pits, stone dug out for tools or to wall in the land, or build a home or barn, to epic mountain-defacing events made in the span of a few generations, our life with stone, like much else today, is teetering on a precipice.
Although we perceive stone as static, it is in fact always in motion. Hills and mountains are changing due to weather and due to Earth’s energy; their contours are in constant flux. Could we say that the insatiable human hunger for this physical matter is driven by these same forces? There is an argument for that. But the difference is we know we’re going too far. The consciousness we possess may very well have been born in the furnace of the Big Bang, but it is most clearly manifest in us. We can see that we have gone too far.
Stone is in core of our beings. We have grown up on it, and in it, and it in us. The philosopher Arne Naess in his treatise on deep ecology talks about vital need. We do need to touch stone, to make with stone, to engage with it. It is through this action that we have potential to engage with our deepest selves, to see ourselves in our broadest context. We have learned so much from stone’s extraction, but we need to recognise when we have dug too deep and too wide, which is no doubt where we are now, where the mechanised extraction of stone is not only boring holes through Earth, it is doing the same through our souls.
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