I saw Eternity the other night,
Like a great ring of pure and endless light.
So said the poet Henry Vaughan, a short time, presumably, after ingesting some dubious herbal substance. Eternity, however, is rather passe, so I tried the other night to imagine the whole of the Earth as a unified active system:
Tectonic plates grinding rock together with geologic patience and continental force; a global geomorphological system of erosion, transportation and deposition; water percolating through soil and rock in dark, claustrophobic, subterranean solitude; hydrological networks of foaming mountain cataracts, and streams, and sedate, waltz-inspiring rivers, pumping water into the oceans; differential heating of the atmosphere generating pressure and temperature differences which dissipate via storms, depressions and jet streams; ocean currents, waves and tides; patterns of genes rippling amongst the biological species; cycles of agricultural land use; a vast network of villages, towns and cities, joined by road, rail, and river; a network of water supply and sewerage tunnels and pipes; an international network of oil and gas pipelines, suffuse with hydrocarbons; an electricity network of pylons, lines, cables, power stations and sub-stations, surging with potency; a telecommunications network of trunk lines, local exchanges, land lines, undersea cables and microwaves, linked to a constellation of satellites in orbit; a network of ports and shipping lanes across the oceans; a network of airports and airways puncturing the atmosphere; an economic system with prodigious flows of capital between accounts, assets, shares and derivatives; and an exponential system of information, memes and knowledge, supervening upon the genetic systems.
This is difficult to imagine, all at the same time.