You will notice the all-to-obvious differences between the Classive stacked-stone of Athens’ Acropolis and the Progressive stone-stacks teetering all around us.  The one is permanent, ennobling, difficult, the other is transient, degrading, all-too-easy and ethically squishy. 

Temple of Aphrodite, Delphi. credit: M. Curtis

Picture, if you will, the intelligence of Athens’ Propylaea, the idea in stone, the divine geometries, the artistry in engineering, buildings beautifully reasoned for a reasoning people.  Picture a day of festival, let us say, “the Greater Panathenaea”, see shields and songs and offerings, Athens’ citizen-body arising through Propylaea gate to the high city where honor is offered to the Gods of Heaven, of Earth, the Underworld, and to the eponymous protector, Athena, tall standing among a measured forest of balanced stone columns.

Picture your local nature path, beauty park, or archeological site defenseless against human mindfulness, and see there nature unbalanced, trampled by the stone gathering, bluejeaned unwashed.  Picture a bird-chirping, chipmunk-scurrying day, see a vagrancy of fingers lifting stones from where nature thought best to lay them, and see the fingers stacking awkwardly stones in a parody of artistry.  Picture aged defensive walls, hero-blooded, slip-stoned, unbound from mortared earth, dislodged, stones unnaturally rearranged, heedlessly pirouetting in tip-toe play.

Stacks near Las Vegas. credit: Kilmer Media

I have seen gathered in neighborhood stacks, social-justice mothers coaching children to mimic the totterings of local stackers where with smudged cellphone each proudly snaps junior Jayden’s ambitious stack.  I have seen beach-sided fathers instruct sons to up-stack stones that soon are wave-washed away — a lesson of time, certainty, and the works of man, I suppose.  And I have heard that matriculating freshmen of august universities will for admission qualification show stone-stacks three crookeding, middling feet high.

I shall not critique the art of the novice, the freshman, the fledgling, children of the brain-drain screens, and thumb-dumb machines, I reserve criticism for the artmen, the environmental artists, the greats of recent earth-scrapings and litterings: Nancy Holt, purveyor of sewer-grates and mosquito-holes; Robert Smithson, master of earth-erosions and ruins; Christo, craftsman of pretty-pink-pollution-pods; Maya Lin of the earth-scars.  How much better the built environment if artmen had looked to Capability Brown or William Kent, rather than to the gravel-pit, the golf-pitch and sewer-ditch for models of inspiration.   

The Parthenon, Athens. credit: M. Curtis

Juxta, we might appreciate the peripatetic meditations of stonestackers, the unnumberable rocky dissertations of New Age gurus, if only the gurus would leave-be the threatened neolithic sites, the sensitive national parks, the quaint homes of innocent wildlife, and the precariously balanced microhabitations, but they will not, so minnows are unhomed, lizards die, bunnies are exposed, national parks are uglified, and ancient cities are dismantled with an eagerness matched only by statue stompers. 

And we shan’t neglect Ainsley’s Instagram notoriety, nor Arden’s Facebook celebrity, the equivalent, we suppose, of Hippodamos’ legacy and Phidias’ renown.  We might almost long for “LOVE” painted rocks and the adoption papers of 1970s boxed pet rocks, if not for knowing where that leads: Progressive Stonestackers.

Stacked arch. credit: Anatoli Styf

Classive stacked-stone and Progressive stone-stacks differ in most every particular of craft, of engineering, of artistry, of tone of mind.  The differences in trajectory of civilization are so obvious that the inevitable concluding statement bores before it utters.  So then, let the stones fall where we will.  

* Stowe’s Pound, Madeira Island, et alibi; Maine’s Acadia National Park, where in 2017 conservative volunteers deconstructed 3,500 ruinous stone-stacks of the previous year.


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