Thursday, November 6, 2008

The Creation of the world is a controversial topic. Some believe that a supreme being willed the universe into existence and then in the course of a day or two, refined and ordered the physical environment of the earth a little. Then it appears that, having nothing left to do in the rest of the universe, God (as in “Let Us create …”) focused his/her/their attention on the earth and started adding stuff like water, plants, swimming things, flying things, crawling things and finally walking things.

So probably this thing we call The Grand Canyon was here before there were people.

This is consistent with other theories of creation, too. Especially those holding to the concept that the earth and all life on the earth has been developing and maturing for a very, very, very long time.

So, how did this wonderful wonder of the world, this particularly magnificent gaping hole in the earth come to be? The Colorado River meanders through southern Utah and northern Arizona at an elevation of around 2,500 feet before it enters the Grand Canyon. The gorges cut by the Colorado and Little Colorado Rivers are impressive, but not very deep and the surrounding land is relatively flat. The topography of the region reveals that the earth’s surface rises dramatically just as the river enters the Canyon and in fact the rims of the canyon both rise more than a mile above the river. This means that for the river to flow in its present course, it either had to be there before the land around it began to rise up (otherwise the water would have simply flowed around this elevated area and wound its way to lower elevations by another route) or, the canyon was already there and the water flowing down from the Rocky Mountains simply found this pre-existing route to be the easiest and most convenient way downhill.

This second scenario seems highly unlikely unless the earth really was created in an instant. Then, the canyon would either be an accident, a big “Oops” that someone forgot to fill in and smooth out, or the earth just came complete with a variety of pre-cut river beds, like this one … and instructions: “Just add water!”

But if the river was there first, that scenario would require a great deal of time because the earth would have to rise slowly enough for the river to maintain a relatively consistent course as it cut through and molded the canyon. Otherwise the rising ground would have impeded the waterway and the river would either find a more direct downhill course, or we’d just be gathering today to look at Lake Flagstaff.

I like this slower scenario better, only because I tend to view creation as a dynamic and ongoing process and I can see corollaries to this process in how our own human bodies function. Gosh, it’s almost as if there might be some intelligence or something behind it all …

Anyway, I like to think of the Grand Canyon as a planetary version of a crack on your heel. Or a fat lip. A fat lip on the face of the earth. (Please don’t get this confused with a volcano, which is more like POOF! ... a zit exploding.)

It starts like this: There is some kind of trauma, it can be sudden (like a fist to the face) or insidious (like a cold sore virus, or in the case of the heel, the deposition of successive cellular layers to the heel in response to the loading induced by years of bipedal locomotion). In the case of the fist to the face it usually follows that there is this cut in the lip. Before too long the surrounding skin swells to the point that the adjacent surface layers begin to rip open around the cut. With continued thickening (or swelling) this split grows wider and deeper until the delicate and sensitive inner layers are exposed. By this time, it doesn’t take much to re-injure or aggravate the area, especially in the case of the fat lip. You don’t even need to get punched any more. Now, even normal biological functions (like eating or talking or breathing) are enough to traumatize and re-aggravate the exposed uber sensitive inner tissue layers, opening the wound even further and causing even more swelling until it feels like this gaping hole in your lip is a mile wide. And you feel like it will never, ever heal.

Now picture that on a planetary scale – the Colorado River is busy minding its own business heading through the flatlands of northern Arizona toward what we now call Nevada. But here, there is some kind of trauma or insult to the earth and it begins to swell causing the river banks on the north and south to get pushed up on either side of the river that cuts through the earth’s surface. As the earth continues to rise, the river, by cutting deeper into the earth, just stays where it is and the gap between north and south widens revealing the inner layers of the earth’s crust. Add a little wind and rain (and just enough time for a wink of God's eye) to the river’s erosive effect, further widening the gap and opening the wound - and Viola!

You have a Grand Canyon.