Paso Robles, California

The Lovely And Violent Hills

Readability

The Lovely And Violent Hills

This past week­end, the mys­te­ri­ous yet not myth­i­cal Mrs. Dude and I took some much needed time away from our respec­tive work­places to visit the mice, ducks, dogs, chip­munks, and other crit­ters. In other words, Disneyland.

Given how we had an extra day, rather than take the quicker, fiercely duller I-​5 free­way we opted for the more coastal I-​101. The 101 mostly fol­lows the trail left by Span­ish Fran­cis­cans dur­ing the late 1700s and early 1800s as they estab­lished twenty-​one mis­sions stretch­ing from San Diego to Solano, all of which still stand in some fashion.

As the 101 enters the lower reaches of cen­tral Cal­i­for­nia, it goes through a lengthy stretch of mostly gen­tle hills, dot­ted or cov­ered in ever­green oak trees with grasses and occa­sion­ally flow­ers under­neath. In a few places man has unob­tru­sively made his present felt with the occa­sional vine­yard or orchard, but for the most part every­thing is how nature has presently left things arranged. It is beau­ti­ful, peace­ful, and pastoral.

It is also utterly deceiving.

The gen­tly rolling hills, their sur­face worn to smooth round­ness by mil­len­nia of rain and growth, thor­oughly hide how when­ever one trav­els through them one does so atop a tick­ing bomb. The San Andreas and ancil­lary earth­quake faults lie beneath, their con­vul­sive thrust­ing over count­less years hav­ing formed the scarps and pro­tru­sions that we now see in gen­tly sloped, inno­cent form. It is not a ques­tion of if the next great earth­quake will strike this land, or north or south of here, but rather when, a ques­tion sci­ence answers with a supremely con­fi­dent shrug. Save build­ing upon and anchor­ing to a solid foun­da­tion, one that remains in place even as the struc­ture it sup­ports has suf­fi­cient flex­i­bil­ity to enable the pass­ing through of energy expended when­ever tec­tonic plates throw a tem­per tantrum, there is no pos­si­ble prepa­ra­tion for when the earth forcibly reminds us we are not in charge.

That said, once proper prepa­ra­tions for the inevitable are made there is no excuse for not find­ing heal­ing in the hills’ beauty. The moment one con­forms his or her think­ing to what the hills are, this as com­pared to what one wishes the hills to be, clar­ity ensues.

Clar­ity; see­ing what is and respond­ing accord­ingly in lieu of act­ing based on pre­ferred real­ity, is a sadly rare com­mod­ity these days. Human­ity has done an excel­lent job of con­vinc­ing itself its per­cep­tion is indeed real­ity. Self-​identification has become sacro­sanct. Few dare tell oth­ers they are not who they think they are. You are an expert wit­ness, a polit­i­cal earth­shaker because you say you are? Of course you are. Mean­while, the real earth­shaker lays beneath its benign dis­guise, wait­ing for a time of its own choos­ing to reveal its fear­some power.

The time has come to stop pre­tend­ing and start liv­ing. Let the impo­tent rage and pea­cock pos­ing go. Being a social media war­rior is no more noble than being a social jus­tice war­rior. We are not shift­ing the dia­logue; we are not chang­ing pol­icy. We’re just not.

What we can do is change cul­ture from the inside out. Lov­ing fam­ily and friends, tend­ing to one another in heart, mind, and soul; this is achiev­able. We can preach, in word and far more impor­tantly deed, Christ cru­ci­fied and risen. Let us embrace truth as we live among the lovely and vio­lent hills, prac­tic­ing our love and faith while prepar­ing for the inevitable upheaval we can nei­ther pre­vent nor predict.

This past weekend, the mysterious yet not mythical Mrs. Dude and I took some much needed time away from our respective workplaces to visit the mice, ducks, dogs, chipmunks, and other critters. In other words, Disneyland.

Given how we had an extra day, rather than take the quicker, fiercely duller I-5 freeway we opted for the more coastal I-101. The 101 mostly follows the trail left by Spanish Franciscans during the late 1700s and early 1800s as they established twenty-one missions stretching from San Diego to Solano, all of which still stand in some fashion.

As the 101 enters the lower reaches of central California, it goes through a lengthy stretch of mostly gentle hills, dotted or covered in evergreen oak trees with grasses and occasionally flowers underneath. In a few places man has unobtrusively made his present felt with the occasional vineyard or orchard, but for the most part everything is how nature has presently left things arranged. It is beautiful, peaceful, and pastoral.

It is also utterly deceiving.

The gently rolling hills, their surface worn to smooth roundness by millennia of rain and growth, thoroughly hide how whenever one travels through them one does so atop a ticking bomb. The San Andreas and ancillary earthquake faults lie beneath, their convulsive thrusting over countless years having formed the scarps and protrusions that we now see in gently sloped, innocent form. It is not a question of if the next great earthquake will strike this land, or north or south of here, but rather when, a question science answers with a supremely confident shrug. Save building upon and anchoring to a solid foundation, one that remains in place even as the structure it supports has sufficient flexibility to enable the passing through of energy expended whenever tectonic plates throw a temper tantrum, there is no possible preparation for when the earth forcibly reminds us we are not in charge.

That said, once proper preparations for the inevitable are made there is no excuse for not finding healing in the hills’ beauty. The moment one conforms his or her thinking to what the hills are, this as compared to what one wishes the hills to be, clarity ensues.

Clarity; seeing what is and responding accordingly in lieu of acting based on preferred reality, is a sadly rare commodity these days. Humanity has done an excellent job of convincing itself its perception is indeed reality. Self-identification has become sacrosanct. Few dare tell others they are not who they think they are. You are an expert witness, a political earthshaker because you say you are? Of course you are. Meanwhile, the real earthshaker lays beneath its benign disguise, waiting for a time of its own choosing to reveal its fearsome power.

The time has come to stop pretending and start living. Let the impotent rage and peacock posing go. Being a social media warrior is no more noble than being a social justice warrior. We are not shifting the dialogue; we are not changing policy. We’re just not.

What we can do is change culture from the inside out. Loving family and friends, tending to one another in heart, mind, and soul; this is achievable. We can preach, in word and far more importantly deed, Christ crucified and risen. Let us embrace truth as we live among the lovely and violent hills, practicing our love and faith while preparing for the inevitable upheaval we can neither prevent nor predict.