This entry is part of an occasional series in which metaphorical ideas find their way onto your screen. Its roots are simple: When you look with fresh eyes, there may be life lessons to find in just about anything. Today: When are rocks not solid?
Is “rock-solid” a reliable part of your metaphorical vocabulary? If so, you might want to think again! It turns out that granite—one of our all-time favorite rocks—is not reliable over the long haul. In geological time, granite can fall apart!
Granite is an enduring symbol for durability, trustworthiness or foundational truth—e.g., God is the rock of our salvation. But it’s also true that this igneous material, a solidified aggregate of potassium feldspar, mica, hornblende and quartz crystals, is susceptible to the effects of rain and microbial life. Over time, granite can turn into 1grus (groos), weathered rock that eventually falls apart to become soil.
2Geoligist, teacher and author Dr. Marcia Bjornerud unearths the metaphorical possibilities of what she calls “rotten granite.”
Grus is also a cautionary illustration of how quickly things that seem solid—whether granites or the cultural bedrock of society—can crumble when components are compromised, connections are broken and cohesion is lost.
As a metaphor-chaser, I was intrigued by Dr. Bjornerud’s revelation about the supposed strength of granite. I started to wonder about other seemingly unbreakable, unshakeable, unwavering or unyielding elements of our lives. “What doesn’t fall apart?” comes to mind. Also, “How do small processes change large entities?” There’s this one, too: “Who mistakenly thinks of me as rock-solid?” And perhaps most assuringly, “How can crumbling people, institutions, relationships or presumptions eventually turn into useful soil?”
There may be something perhaps-strangely hopeful about the reality of disintegrating granite: What’s coming apart may turn into something generative—like dirt. So I don’t have to worry needlessly about the parts of my life that seem to be waning. With a geologist’s mindset, I can relax.
In God’s time, things will work out….
1This Norwegian word approximates gravel, a beginning part of the process of soil formation.
2For the scientific and metaphorical content of this entry, I’m indebted to the work of Dr. Marcia Bjornerud, Professor of Geosciences and Environmental Studies at Lawrence University. Her latest book, Geopedia: A Brief Compendium of Geologic Curiosities (Princeton University Press, 2022) adds to the delightfully written diamonds of her geologic wordsmithing. (See pp. 64-65 for her treatment of grus.)
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