The other night there was a brief tsunami warning out here. Now I’m not a catastrophist (well, maybe I am…), but the idea of a tsunami washing up conjured yet another realization of the dynamism of the world around here — it is ever changing, in fact. Faults and movements deep below the earth around the so-called “ring of fire” — which roughly circles the Pacific — leads, as the label suggests, to occasional volcanic activity. But its effect is more often seen through earthquakes.
The reason for the warning out here yesterday was an earthquake. It was a big one — 8.2 on the Richter scale. You couldn’t feel it here, of course (well, presumably — I wasn’t watching any animals at the time…), since the epicenter was far away. It was across the Pacific, just east of the Kuril Islands, which are disputed, but nominally belong to Russia. The record of the tsunami warnings is fascinating to read…You can follow the sequence of updates on the event as it transpires here. Imagine watching unsteady readouts from some hazardous self-regulating machinery, like in The China Syndrome.
So the tsunami turned out to be a bust…I’m OK with that. The only reason the warning was broadcast at all was probably as a highly precautious security measure — yet another sign of our heavily risk-assessed society.
More interesting is the fact that the Kuril Islands are currently a hotbed of geological activity. Take a look at these charts. There are small earthquakes all over the world, daily, but big ones, over 8 on the scale, are fairly rare. There’s been 14 of them worldwide since 1990. Three of these were centered around the Kurils. Two of those three 8+ quakes have struck in the last couple of months. There’s been a host of smaller aftershocks and the concentration of terrestrial geological activity in this areas is clear.
What is going on?
Who knows. Maybe it has something to do with the North Koreans…They’re not far away…Paranoia aside, it is a rather interesting nexus of energy — a particular moment in geological time…Instead of allowing the ominous rumblings create a delusional association to the current American arsenal of “bunker-busting” mini-nukes (look it up!), I prefer to think of it as a synchronicity marking the recent passing of Robert Anton Wilson, whose books and ideas have been an inspiration to legions. Thus my title, from the first volume of The Historical Illuminatus Chronicles (1982), an offshoot of Wilson’s more famous collaborative work, The Illuminatus! Trilogy (1975). Wilson’s The Earth Will Shake is set in the heart of the shaking and shifting foundations of the Enlightenment, and starts in 1760, five years after the great 1755 Lisbon earthquake — an event referenced in Voltaire’s Candide (1759). The devastating earthquake simultaneously gave birth to the science of seismology and shook the foundations of belief in many European hearts, putting the ancien régime on the defensive. It was, one can say without hyperbole, “earth-shattering” in its consequences. Aftershocks in the illuminated mind should form when I mention that Voltaire was a writer of some relevance to Wilson, who ressurected themes from the French philosophe‘s classic satire (of a Leibnizian world gone awry) in his own masterful works.
I loved these books, and was even more profoundly influenced by his wonderful journey from macrocosm to microcosm to psychocosm in Prometheus Rising (1983). It was like therapy without the bill. You might even say when I first read Wilson “unbound”, I was promptly jarred out of my previous reality tunnel. For a moment, I could have sworn the earth shook beneath my feet…