At the Oak Lawn Public Library where
once or twice a year the gas company
tears up the sidewalks looking for a leak,
there are more than fifty books that mention
Atlantis. Everything from Plato to
Clive Cussler appears somewhere in the stacks.
In the traditionally accepted
scientific dating of the planet
the continents as we know them today
were all scrunched together as one land mass
about two hundred million years ago.
Scientists call this land mass “Pangea.”
Pangea began the long process of
splitting in two and then more breaking up
about a hundred and fifty million
years ago. That is about the same time
butterflies first evolved as we know them.
In fact, the distribution of many
species across the current continents
supports the understanding butterflies
initially evolved and then began
species radiation on the northern
and southern components of Pangea
directly after the one land mass split.
Most theories of Atlantis say nothing
about Pangea because modern man—
that is, modern civilized man—is thought
to be about fifteen thousand years old,
with most civilizations much younger.
However, Judeo-Christian scripture
describes the Babel tower incident
as ending when God scattered humankind
“abroad, over the face of all the earth.”
Another verse describes a man, Peleg,
as living when the earth was “divided.”
I think we as a species remember
our origin on that one continent,
Pangea, and then the tribulations
of the catastrophic earth changes that
in the time of just one generation
created the continents we know now.
(Prior to the breakup, on Pangea,
the single continent, it’s easier
also to imagine a single flood
affecting all creatures and all humans.)
Of course this only can be possible
if either civilization is much
older than Western science understands
or our scientific dating is skewed.
Neither option is inconceivable.
Hindu scripture plainly speaks of ages
vastly more ancient than Western knowledge.
And there has been some contentious research
that cosmic “constants”—like the speed of light—
in fact might not be constant after all,
and dates keyed to radiation effects
might be over-estimating ages.
I believe someday we will recognize
Atlantis myths as dramatizations
of the tribulations humans endured
during the fracturing of Pangea.
But Atlantis has come to mean much more
than just a physical place—although if
it turns out to be the physical place
our butterflies came from that’s pretty cool.
Atlantis has come to mean a global
free-floating metaphor for any place
that was good but now is gone. Atlantis
is the secular Garden of Eden.
Atlantis is the good world that was lost—
lost art, lost technology, lost science,
and lost peace, lost understanding, lost love,
and lost humanity, lost communion.
(Tomorrow: Paris Hilton And The Butterflies
From Atlantis #5: The Butterflies