Deep Time

By Patrick Metzger

The things that you encounter in life that maintain steadiness at longer time scales are worth your observation.

There is a spectrum of time to be understood here. Most things come and go in an instant. A breath, a heartbeat, a shooting star. Others last a little longer. The feelings you have in any moment, a sound reverberating in the air, a great meal, a wonderful conversation.

From here, we can start to think of the full lifespan of entities. The life of a mayfly that might only last a single day. The life of a fly or a mosquito. The life of a bee who spends one glorious season pollinating things and taking care of its family. A robin that only lives a couple of years. A cat. A dog. A crow. A horse. An elephant. A human. A whale. A tree.

A redwood that lives 500-700 years on average, 2000 years at the longest. The wind-blown leaves of the welwitschia in Namibia, which have similar lifespans. The Sacred Fig tree in Sri Lanka—Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi—that was planted by someone 2300 years ago.

The sponges in the arctic that are thought to be 10,000 years old.

Pando, the stand of quaking Aspen that is thought to be 80,000 years old.

And there is a thing that goes older than the stone. Older than the mountain. Older than the earth. Older than the stars.

It is interesting that we’ve given ourselves so many excuses not to observe these scales of existence that are almost timeless from our perspective. We move from one city to another, locked inside our methods of transportation that hide us from the sun, concealing the natural world. We imagine that we made the world, that everything is new. We imagine that the rocks, the trees, the great buildings of old all simply disappeared of their own accord, rather than being painted over with the brush of industrialization.

But even the newest, brightest buildings are built from metals that have rested in the earth for thousands of years. The cells in our bodies were forged in the heart of stars.

Everything is old. Some things are just pretending not to be.

It is all disappearing. It is all being born anew. It is all ageless.

There are certain things that lie at deeper levels of life, at the heart of reality. And these things are worth your observation.

4 thoughts on “Deep Time

  1. A line from one of Beth’s songs came to me as I read this. “Dust of ancient stars, that’s just who we are”

    1. Zach,

      Thanks so much for sharing this! The Arthur Ganson piece is amazing. It reminds me of David Attenborough’s visit to the Antarctic in “Frozen Planet.”

      Around 2:45 they show glaciers that look unmoving to the naked eye in a time lapse as they cut through a mountain range. It’s breathtaking.

      The whole documentary series is really a meditation on geologic time, survival, and adaptation. At one point (can’t find the video or photo), Attenborough talks about the changes he’s been seeing to the Arctic in the decades he’s been visiting there. They show some shocking before and after photos of huge mountain-sized glaciers that are just gone. Really startling to see such vivid evidence of climate change.


  2. I’m very shocked by your ability to accurately, and succinctly, vocalize abstract realities that not many people are able to understand nevertheless communicate well to others. Digg, and your very insightful millennial whoop article made me wonder if your other articles were as consistent with interesting, well backed up ideas. I found even the about me section to be very concise and enlightening as your articles have been. You have a real talent in communication. Even the simple yet engaging visual aspect of your site is well done. Kudos bro! Keep up the interesting work!

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