Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Scientists Say The Earth Is Humming

Scientists Say The Earth Is Humming

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 be.

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.

Thoughts about this column? E-mail Mark.

Mark Morford's Notes & Errata column appears every Wednesday and
Friday on SFGate and in the Datebook section of the San Francisco
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