Cleavage and Fracture II
Bill Long 11/10/04
Things Fall Apart
So, when life and relationships fall apart, how do they do so? Do they "cleave" or do they "fracture?" I have noted previously that cleave is one of those interesting words in English that seems to mean its opposite (meaning both to connect and to separate), and the reason for that goes back to the fact that it is derived from two different words in Middle English, but I will not attempt to illustrate that process here. Cleave, for my purposes, means to separate.
But when a woman says, "I broke up with my boyfriend," the natural question for me to ask, after studying minerals for a while, is "what kind of 'break-up' was it? Was it a cleavage or a fracture? And, if the latter, a conchoidal, crumbly, splintery or hackly or an uneven fracture? In order to understand how we might limn the way that humans break apart, I will examine the biblical character of Job from the perspective of what we know about the breakage of minerals.
The most important first thing to know about Job is that he is described as a man of integrity. He is "blameless and upright, one who feared God and turned away from evil." In all of his actions he sought the one good--to serve God and turn away from evil. The dramatic power of the Book of Job arises from the fact that Job is a man who consistently exhibits the kind of piety that is rewarded with a multitude of blessings. He is a man of unified heart.
The interesting implication of this from the perspective of mineralogy is that this means that Job is liable to face a fracture rather than a cleavage if things were to fall apart. His "bonding" is similar throughout, and the result of this is that parts can't be "shaved" or "peeled" off as in cleavage when the sharp separation knife is applied to him. Thus, Job's integrity may have something to do with the severity of his mental distress that follows. If he only were less "unified" in heart, less sure of himself in his piety. Then, we might only have a cleavage, something that leaves the basic structure of the original stone intact and produces a similarly-smooth or crystalline break-off piece. But we don't.
The language of fracture then yields interesting results when applied to the case study of Job. The range of Job's subsequent emotions after the great loss of Job 1-2 may be reflective of emotional splintery, hackly, crumbly, uneven and conchoidal fracture.
Job's Emotional "Fractures"
The uneven nature of Job's emotional life after his great distress is obvious. "Like a slave who longs for the shadow,/ and like laborers who look for their wages,/ so I am allotted months of emptiness,/ and nights of misery are apportioned to me./ When I lie down I say, 'When shall I rise?'/ But the night is long,/ and I am full of tossing until dawn (Job 7:2-4)." Job cannot sleep at the time of sleep. The nights, which should be short, are long. The days, which should be short are "swifter than a weaver's shuttle (7:6)." And the result is that they come to their end without hope (7:6)."
But even more noticeable for Job is the jagged or hackly nature of his emotional life. "He (God) has torn me in his wrath, and hated me;/ he has gnashed his teeth at me;/ my adversary sharpens his eyes against me (16:9)." When the teeth of God sink in to him, a jagged part is ripped out of Job's heart and hope. A combination of the hackly and splintery fracture of Job is evident a few verses later. "I was at ease, and he broke me in two;/ he seized me by the neck and dashed me to pieces;/ he set me up as his target;/ his archers surround me./ He slashes open my kidnesy, and shows no mercy (16:12-13)." Images of slashing and tearing predominate. Job is left as a mangled creature, as a person whose jagged features mirror the unprecedented attack by God against him. Mineralogical terminology illumines Job's emotional emptiness.
And then there is Job's most poignant wish to experience crumbly fracture. In his first speech after the initial scream of pain in Job 3, he says, "O that I might have my request,/ and that God would grant my desire;/ that it would please God to crush me...(6:8)." How utterly awesome and scary. Job wants to be obliterated, like the mineral that, when pounded by a hammer, breaks apart into earthy and crumbly pieces, returning to the earth which gave it birth, soon to be indistinguishable from that same earth. Part of Job's unstanchable grief is that even though he tries to maintain a hope in his devastated condition, nature teaches him, through crumbling, that his hope is vain. "But the mountain falls and crumbles away.....so you destroy the hope of mortals (14:18-19)."
Finally, and most devastatingly, he feels the anguish of conchoidal fracture. This kind of breaking is like that of a coke bottle broken, where a deep gouge is tunneled out of the glass, even though there is no shattering or splintering. Grief is Job's emotional conchoidal fracture, grief which burrows deep into the surface of his life only to gouge him deeply, scar him irreparably, moon-out an already debilitated heart. "My days are past, my plans are broken off, the desires of my heart (17:11)." Job's full emotional bereftness is like a conchoidal fracture.
What is the lesson of this or of Job? That emotional distress would be less if we are of less consistent stuff? That we would only cleave and not fracture if we were people of unequal "bond strength" in our souls? But who wants to be like that? The shadow side of integrity is that deep loss brings fracture into our lives, fracture that is alternately hackly, conchoidal, splintery, uneven and crumbly. Maybe Simon & Garfunkle were right after all, in ways they never could have imagined.
Copyright © 2004-2010 William R. Long