Who knows what ancient memory you might not jostle in your own strata?

April 18, 2016

Who knows what ancient memory you might not jostle in your own strata?

For the past six months, Peter Oswald and Stephan Harding have been writing, researching, refining and collaborating together on the creation of the script for the Deep Time Walk experience. This script was recorded on April 11th 2016 at Cast Iron Studios in London with the actors Chipo Chung and Paul Hilton.

Here, Peter writes about what you can expect to hear in the dialogue between ‘The Scientist’ and ‘The Fool’ characters – whom together form the basis of the narration for the walker as they journey across 4.6 billion years.

“Someone is stuck. It’s impossible to move without spreading out ripples of destruction through the world she lives in and which gives her life. This person has run out of ideas. Or rather, her thoughts collide and cancel each other. Nothing can help her except the intervention of a completely different way of thinking.

Along comes somebody else. The two start talking. The first person identifies herself as a scientist, the second as a Fool. What is that, a Fool? Someone who speaks the truth, he says. From his own point of view, obviously. But this quibble doesn’t bother the Fool. He moves from one point to another without joining the dots. Perhaps, in fact, this method can help the one who is stuck.

The Fool suggests that they return together, in imagination, to a beginning. They choose, as a convenient point, the formation of the Earth, just under 4.6 billion years ago. (Which includes the formation of the sun, a bit before that.) And then, instead of thinking or conducting experiments, they will walk. It must be an actual, physical walk, across real terrain. But this is not enough on its own  – there must be, overlaying it, a walk in the imagination. Every metre will signify one hundred million years. So they will walk, in reality and in imagination, 4.6 kilometres from the formation of the Earth to the present moment. They will experience vast changes, they will witness the emergence of Life. They will feel, in their ambulant bones, the wear and the weight of different stretches of time, the relative length of the different phases of emergence. Like a complicated tune in the head, the changing pitches and rhythms of Earth’s evolution will find a lodging in them.

They invite a walker to accompany them. This is crucial. There must be an observer and the observer must be a participant. No separation. He or she exists in their imagination and they exist in his or hers. True, they can’t talk to each other but they are connected by a single physical endeavour and a shared act of the imagination.

What are they hoping for? Well, one of them is stuck, and looking for a way to move. The other offers an option, rich in possibilities and open to interpretation. Both agree that they emerged from the Earth. It’s often interesting to explore family history – why not go far further back than your first human forebears – right back to the formation of the sun, even. Who knows what ancient memory, what drop of the first rain, what whiff of primordial sulphur, you might not jostle in your own strata? Unleashing some fresh evolution of your own consciousness, towards who knows what integration of the actual and the imaginary?

Between the two of them, there is no viewpoint that can’t be visited. Scientific, mythological, Gaia or not Gaia – they keep on walking and talking. They don’t always agree, it isn’t all easy-going. 4.6 billion years is a long way, and there are troughs of despair as well as waves of light. Perhaps the whole thing is totally overwhelming, dazzles and darkens the mind. Who knows how it will be for you, the one who goes with them? Apart from them, whom you can’t talk to, you are on your own. Imagination could open your mind to a huge blast of reality. You might need to pause your two fellow-walkers every now and again, just stop and look around, breathe, and think your own thoughts. But if you see it through, you will have walked, on the Earth, the story of the Earth, from its opening right to the wide-open present moment.”