Cruel Cosmic Accident
or Judgment Day?
"Continental, world-wide, globe-embracing" — the Drift, born in violence and stalking humankind under the name Ragnarok, began to reshape the Earth during a bleak, unbroken run of seasons rent by incessant wind, snow, and intense cold, Ignatius Donnelly tells us. "We are not dealing with little things," he wrote.
Most of our ancestors perished, but a few, sheltering in caves or dens in the densest forests, survived to renew humanity. "Man is saved," Mr. Donnelly wrote. "The world is once more fair. The sun shines again in heaven. Night and day follow each other in endless revelation around the happy globe. Ragnarok is past."
But only for an eon. The Deluge — destruction by water — was yet to come.
Was the Drift a cruel cosmic accident caused by the collision of two heavenly objects crossing paths by chance in an indifferent, mechanistic Universe? Or was it Judgment Day? Can there be more than one?
"The Drift fell upon a fair and lovely world, a world far better adapted to give happiness to its inhabitants than this storm-tossed planet on which we now live, with its endless battle between heat and cold, between sun and ice," Mr. Donnelley wrote. "Man dwelt in this fair and glorious world — this world that knew no frost, no cold, no ice, no snow — for thousands of years. He witnessed the appalling and sudden calamity which fell upon it. And he has preserved the memory of this catastrophe to the present day, in a multitude of myths and legends scattered all over the face of the habitable earth."
Could the Drift be 'preserved' in another way, through the measured findings and arcane metaphor of geology? If the solid matter of the planet speaks to us about the past — and we know it does — then the Drift could be validated by an analysis of vast swaths of the Earth's surface. Ignatius thinks so. Here we go.