Monday, April 14, 2014

The Oldest Living Things on our Earth - Video

In this beautiful short trailer of 'The Oldest Living Things in the World' by filmmaker Jonathan Minnard offers glimpse of Rachel Sussman’s extraordinary world.

Interwoven with Sussman’s photographs and essays, brimming with equal parts passion and precision, are the stories of her adventures, and misadventures, as she trekked the world in search of her ancient subjects.

From a broken arm in remote Malaysia to a heart-wrenching breakup to a well-timed sip of whisky at polar explorer Shackleton’s grave (Grytviken), her personal stories imbue the universality of the deeper issues she explores with an inviting dose of humanity — a gentle reminder that life, for us as much as for those ancient organisms, is often about withstanding the uncontrollable, unpredictable, and unwelcome difficulties the universe throws our way, and that resilience comes from the dignity and humility of that withstanding.

“Our overblown intellectual faculties seem to be telling us both that we are eternal and that we are not,” philosopher Stephen Cave observed in his poignant meditation on our mortality paradox

And yet we continue to long for the secrets of the secrets of that ever-elusive eternity.

Bristlecone Pine: White Mountains, California
With an artist’s gift for “aesthetic force” and a scientist’s rigorous respect for truth, Sussman straddles a multitude of worlds as she travels across space and time to unearth Earth’s greatest stories of resilience, stories of tragedy and triumph, past and future, but above all stories that humble our human lives, which seem like the blink of a cosmic eye against the timescales of these ancient organisms — organisms that have unflinchingly witnessed all of our own tragedies and triumphs, our wars and our revolutions, our holocausts and our renaissances, and have remained anchored to existence more firmly than we can ever hope to be.

Brain Coral: Speyside, Tobago
And yet a great many of these species are on the verge of extinction, in no small part due to human activity, raising the question of how our seemingly ephemeral presence in the ecosystem can have such deep and long-term impact on organisms far older and far more naturally resilient than us.

Fortingall Yew: Perthshire, Scotland

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