Scientists say the Earth is humming. Not just noise, but a deep, astonishing
music. Can you hear it?
By Mark Morford, SF Gate Columnist
This is the kind of thing we forget.
This is the kind of thing that, given all our distractions, our celeb
obsessions and happy drugs and bothersome trifles like family and bills and
war and health care and sex and love and porn and breathing and death, tends
to fly under the radar of your overspanked consciousness, only to be later
rediscovered and brought forth and placed directly in front of your
eyeballs, at least for a moment, so you can look, really look, and go, oh my
God, I had no idea.
The Earth is humming. Singing. Churning out a tune without the aid of
battery or string or wind-up mechanism and its song is ethereal and
mystifying and very, very weird, a rather astonishing, newly discovered
phenomena that's not easily analyzed, but which, if you really let it sink
into your consciousness, can change the way you look at everything.
Indeed, scientists now say the planet itself is generating a constant, deep
thrum of noise. No mere cacophony, but actually a kind of music, huge,
swirling loops of sound, a song so strange you can't really fathom it, so
low it can't be heard by human ears, chthonic roars churning from the very
water and wind and rock themselves, countless notes of varying vibration
creating all sorts of curious tonal phrases that bounce around the mountains
and spin over the oceans and penetrate the tectonic plates and gurgle in the
magma and careen off the clouds and smack into trees and bounce off your
ribcage and spin over the surface of the planet in strange circular loops,
"like dozens of lazy hurricanes," as one writer put it.
It all makes for a very quiet, otherworldly symphony so odd and mysterious,
scientists still can't figure out exactly what's causing it or why the hell
it's happening. Sure, sensitive instruments are getting better at picking up
what's been dubbed "Earth's hum," but no one's any closer to understanding
what the hell it all might mean. Which, of course, is exactly as it should
Because then, well, then you get to crank up your imagination, your mystical
intuition, your poetic sensibility - and if there's one thing we're lacking
in modern America, it's ... well, you know.
Me, I like to think of the Earth as essentially a giant Tibetan singing
bowl, flicked by the middle finger of God and set to a mesmerizing, low ring
for about 10 billion years until the tone begins to fade and the vibration
slows and eventually the sound completely disappears into nothingness and
the birds are all, hey what the hell happened to the music? And God just
shrugs and goes, well that was interesting.
Or maybe the planet is more like an enormous wine glass, half full of a
heady potion made of horny unicorns and divine lubricant and perky sunshine,
around the smooth, gleaming rim of which Dionysus himself circles his wet
fingertip, generating a mellifluous tone that makes the wood nymphs dance
and the satyrs orgasm and the gods hum along as they all watch 7 billion
confused human ants scamper about with their lattes and their war and their
perpetually adorable angst, oblivious.
But most of all, I believe the Earth actually (and obviously) resonates,
quite literally, with the Hindu belief in the divine sound of OM (or more
accurately, AUM), that single, universal syllable that contains and
encompasses all: birth and death, creation and destruction, being and
nothingness, rock and roll, Christian and pagan, meat and vegetable, spit
and swallow. You know?
But here's the best part: This massive wave of sound? The Earth's deep,
mysterious OM, it's perpetual hum of song? Totally normal - that is, if by
"normal" you mean "unfathomably powerful and speaking to a vast mystical
timelessness we can't possibly comprehend."
Indeed, all the spheres do it, all the planets and all the quasars and stars
and moons and whirlpool galaxies, all vibrating and humming like a chorus of
wayward deities singing sea shanties in a black hole. It's nothing new,
really: Mystics and poets and theorists have pondered the "music of the
spheres" (or musica universalis) for eons; it is the stuff of cosmic
philosophy, linking sacred geometry, mathematics, cosmology, harmonics,
astrology and music into one big cosmological poetry slam.
Translation: You don't have to look very far to understand that human beings
- hell, all animals, really - adore song and music and tone and rhythm, and
then link this everyday source of life straight to the roar of the planet
itself, and then back out to the cosmos.
In other words, you love loud punk? Metal? Jazz? Deep house? Saint-Saens
with a glass of Pinot in the tub? Sure you do. That's because somewhere,
somehow, deep in your very cells and bones and DNA, it links you back to
source, to the Earth's own vibration, the pulse of the cosmos. Oh yes it
does. To tap your foot and sway your body to that weird new Portishead tune
is, in effect, to sway it to the roar of the universe. I mean, obviously.
At some point we'll probably figure it all out. Science will, with its
typical charming, arrogant certainty, sift and measure and quantify this
"mystical" Earthly hum, and tell us it merely comes from, say, ocean
movements, or solar wind, or 10 billion trees all deciding to grow a quarter
millimeter all at once. We will do as we always do: oversimplify, peer
through a single lens of understanding, stick this dazzling phenomenon in a
narrow category, and forget it.
How dangerously boring. I much prefer, in matters mystical and musical and
deeply cosmic, to tell the logical mind to shut up and let the soul take
over and say, wait wait wait, maybe most humans have this divine connection
thing all wrong. Maybe God really isn't some scowling gay-hating deity
raining down guilt and judgment and fear on all humankind after all.
Maybe she's actually, you know, a throb, a pulse, a song, deep, complex,
eternal. And us, well, we're just bouncing and swaying along as best we can,
trying to figure out the goddamn melody.
Mark Morford's Notes & Errata column appears every Wednesday and Friday on
SFGate and in the Datebook section of the San Francisco Chronicle. To get on
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Wednesday, April 23, 2008
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