The bedrock of the earth is mostly covered with soil and vegetation but is exposed, often in spectacular ways in many parts of the world, by the erosive action of water and ice, or by the legacy of volcanic eruption and earthquakes. Globally two of the most famous and well-visited examples are the Grand Canyon in the USA and Uluru/Ayres Rock in Australia. Many regions of the world have their own local examples of impressive rock formations and outcrops, not least sea-cliffs around our own coast in the British Isles.
Spectacular rock formations, such as Uluru/Ayres Rock, may be revered as sacred sites by local populations, and regarded as icons of the nations in which they stand. In the Abrahamic faith traditions (Christianity, Islam, Judaism) the rocky Mount Sinai in the Sinai peninsula of Egypt is regarded as the place where the ancient prophet Moses encountered God and was given the Ten Commandments. In other traditions too there are examples of mountains and rock outcrops being venerated as the dwelling place of the divine. In early modern Britain the mountains of areas like the Lake District and the Highlands of Scotland inspired artists and poets, famously William Wordsworth, who generated new interest in these rugged places of exposed rock as retreats for spiritual and emotional refreshment away from the industrialising cities. In Christian tradition from the Bible onwards rock has featured frequently in prayers and hymns as a metaphor of the reliability of God.
The apparent barrenness and inhospitality of the bedrock belies its value to human life, not only as the basis of topsoil upon which most food provision depends, but also for its reserves of groundwater on which many populations rely. The bedrock is also the source of the oil and minerals without which modern urban life would be impossible at present. Extracting these resources by drilling, mining, quarrying, or fracking and transporting them, involves potentially dangerous operations which have had devastating impacts in local areas on human health and the environment. The burning of fossil fuels is now known to be a major contributor to climate change with a global impact on all life forms.
From the bedrock fossils have revealed the early history of life on earth. This has allowed for the development of scientific knowledge and a re-imagination in faith traditions of the scope and majesty of the creation; although not without controversy, as the traditional scriptural accounts of the divine act of creation have been re-evaluated. In a similar way modern scientific observation and measurements have shown that the bedrock is not as fixed and unmoving as it appears but is rather in constant motion and tension , with volcanic action and earthquakes being an integral feature of the earth’s surface. The suffering and loss of human life resulting from volcanic eruptions and earthquakes have led to to a re-evaluation also of an over-simplified understanding of divine providence. Efforts need to be focused on fostering the spiritual attitudes and the moral determination of governments and society together to protect people from the potential impact of catastrophic events and to provide the most effective mobilisation of resources for rescue and recovery where they do happen.
Today’s photograph depicts an impressive outcrop of sedimentary rock in the Epirus region of Greece; which lies in one of the earthquake-prone regions of the world.