“…So these humans, with four arms, and eyes, and legs, were cut in half by the gods and always feel the need for their other half, so seek desperately across the world to reunify. This is the origin of love. The angst and sadness and desperation to become whole again…” said a modern drunken Aristophanes one day in a seedy bar over hot, iceless glasses of rum.
“But there is more to love than that ‘Topho,” his sombre companion said, in a voice that was almost a whisper. “Let me tell you a story…” I leaned back in my chair slightly—but hopefully not obviously—to catch the deep rumble of his words.
Once upon a time the world was a very different place.
It was like you say—all one. Pangea. But then there was a break. Gods or otherwise, the great land mass of Northern Laurasia broke free and left the southern half of Gondwana feeling the separation of her loss. As the now lonely Gondwana drifted southwards she dreamt, and with all the pain of her love and with all the intention of her broken, but hopeful, heart, fractured herself into five.
First, a long teardrop was shed westwards and floated out into the enormous Oceanic half of the world in the desperate search of all dreamers and wanderers and explorers for love.
Soon after South America’s departure, Africa lifted itself gently northwards and floated patiently back to the centre of the world. Love will find me again. She was sure. She knew it. She would wait.
India, taking all the angst of the broken heart, raced in heavy desperation northwards. I’ll find it, she thought. I will.
And finally the last remaining pieces of the continent tore apart. In the wound that was left as Australia moved northwards, a current began to form. This circumpolar current flowed around the isolated Antarctica, containing the bitter cold of the extremes of the world, and in the process creating a giant heartbeat that pumps and mixes all the oceans currents, spreading heat equally throughout the world, touching all the pieces of herself, giving them courage.
Time passed, and soon enough India managed to find her lost Laurasia, and in a moment of ecstasy, crashed into her embrace, buckling and bending her flesh, creating the Himalayas. As the mountains rose up to rake the sky with their fingers, they sucked trillions of tons of carbon out of the air and sealed it in rock and dirt and stone. The atmosphere changed. The world changed.
Later, lost and desperate in her solitude, South America feared the worst. There is nothing out here, she thought. I am alone in the great caress of the Ocean. But eventually the equally lost North America found her, and together they joined, fracturing themselves and creating their baby, the Caribbean Plate, in their joy.
As the Caribbean was born and found friction with its brother the Pacific Cocos Plate, they threw up between them a chain of mountains that cut the world’s mega ocean in half. Panama was born.
But what is child’s play on one side of the world altered the climate on the other side. Patient Africa was at this time tending a tropical belt of verdant rainforest across her body. As the oceans currents slowly shifted, her eastern monsoon veered north, and hit India instead, leaving her highlands dry.
Over millions of years, as Eastern Africa dried up, the rainforests slowly became grasslands. There were at this time some apes living amongst the branches and they became consumed with terror.
The trees are dying. How can we sustain ourselves? they thought (probably inter-generationally, since these things do take millions of years).
And indeed, the trees were dying, and to get food they needed to travel from one clump of surviving trees across the dangerous grasslands to the other clump, through the terrain of lions, cheetahs, hyenas, and all sorts of predators that would consume the little hairy men. So they learnt, over a long time, how to walk; or rather, they learnt how to RUN!
While the lions and cheetahs and hyenas prowled, the apes’ pelvic bone evolved to become narrower and harder, in order to support their whole weight above on just two legs. Bipedalism! Amen! With this they could sprint faster than the knuckle method used before, and with some good timing, the safety of the trees on the other side was possible.
There was a problem, though. With a small, hard hip comes a small, tight birth canal. The offspring of these apes suffered greater loss of life in childbirth, so they birthed their children still attached and premature. Unlike the many other offspring around them on the arid plains of Africa, they were born fragile and useless. In danger. So to care for their unfinished young, the apes had to learn a second useful technique: maternal love.
And so it goes, Topho. Love breeds love, always different and always changing. To this day the heartbeat of the remnants of Gondwana pump it around the world, mixing it in with all things: the sky, the earth, and even the messy mossy life that crawl on top of her. But Love remains. Always. Not only in the tears and rips and quiet desperation, but in it all.
I got out of my chair slowly and stumbled out the bar on my two legs, like a baby now learning to walk; and I suppose it’s only been a couple thousand years, so we’re still getting accustomed to it. The hot Caribbean air hit my face and I breathed the smell of the ocean and I thought about my mother, and Gondwana, and the apes that didn’t make it across the dry plains. And I smiled. Love is…