The mountains look in horror on the madness of the plains.
-- Roger Zelazny
You look at nature. Bird flies somewhere, picks up a seed, shits the seed out, plant grows. Bird's got a job, shit's got a job, seed's got a job. You got a job.
-- Maddy, from Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier
The View from Cold Mountain
Somewhere on the slopes of Cold Mountain, high above the madness of the plains, there lived from a wagon an old woman and her goats.
Or so goes a tale told of another time. Of another bout of madness.
A refugee from that madness - dying by degrees from a grevious wound - is treated by her skill and kindness. He is set back on his road home with a chance to find and face what awaits him.
Had she lived below, among her fellows, that madness would have swept over her. Maybe she'd have been caught in it, and clamored for the blood of them others. Or maybe she'd have been overwhelmed by it, drowned in its flood or burned by its fire. Or maybe she would have kept her footing, surviving to see the bleak aftermath as the madness settled back to dark mutterings.
What did she feel, looking down from her height. Horror, certainly.
And pity, likely.
Were she younger, at least than she was, she might have felt a tug, too. To do something. To get in there and pull in some direction or another, shoulder-to-shoulder with others. To fight the good fight. To attempt change in whatever direction she felt was right.
But had she descended to the plains, she would have been swept by its madness. The good she was able to do in her story was only possible because she had kept far from the madness of crowds.
I think it's no small question... what to do in a time of madness?
Picture a river, a canoe upon it and all of us packed in.
There's supposed to be a waterfall up ahead... stands to reason, but no one has seen it. Some say it's a hoax. Some that it's still many miles on. Some say they can hear it. Some try to warn their fellow passengers.
All the while, the river flows ever faster.
But resources are running low in the canoe, and squabbling for control of them has led to blows. Holes are being punched through the hull, if you can believe it! Few have ears to hear, or time to look up from the fray.
Let's say you are one who hears the thunder of the falls.
Do you do what you can onboard? Do you leap overboard? Do you bother to swim for some kind of shore?
If you stay aboard, surely, you will end up over the falls.
If you leap overboard and do not swim, your journey is over before its time.
But if you leap and swim, you may be ashore to help another from the water.
Leap and swim... this has been our choice.
Not a moral or courageous choice, nor yet a coward's. Merely one that follows from how we view the sweep of recent history. And I'm talking since agriculture.
Our cold archipelago is our Cold Mountain. Our boat is our wagon. The flora and fauna of these lands and waters our life bearing goats. We are gaining in knowledge and skills to share. And we love it.
While we know that our bank may too crumble - that we are yet imperiled by the cataract. At least from here we can hold out a hand to those who get themselves in reach.
Do you hear the falls?