…and Teilhard de Chardin
One may wonder about the juxtaposition of these two names. Taking the second first, Chardin was a French Jesuit who was a world-renowned paleontologist and geologist. Along the way, influenced by his studies of the earth, he pursued yet again another discipline, that being philosophy and theology.
His writings are many and deep, and also very beautiful. My brother Wilfred has studied Chardin, and has written and lectured on his writings. It was Wilfred who got me interested a few years ago, but I have not delved into the subject so much as he has.
Though Chardin thought and wrote about the cosmos, his theology is nonetheless earth centered, which I find to be a problem. Still, I have taken away from his writings a couple of thoughts. One such, essentially a musing, is about why a Creator, in Chardin’s terms, would have created the earth round.
Bear in mind, Chardin was not of those eras when sailors thought that they might sail off the edge of a flat earth. He was a scholar and scientist, and knew the earth was not flat. But he wondered about its roundness, as he pursued his theses about development and diminishment, progression and diminution. The earth has developed, he concluded, because it is round. Were it not so, man would have continued to expand only outward, not constantly coming into interplay with others, not building knowledge upon knowedge, i.e. not developing.
It was only with a round earth, Chardin concluded, that man has evolved so fully as he has.
Now, about Clermont Harbor. I think a few more people who read this will know that Clermont Harbor existed – before K., that is. I am not sure how many have read about the Noosphere or the Omega Point, but there is a parallel.
In other accounts I have written about Clermont, I remembered with fondness the Clermont pier. When my siblings and I were kids, our first thoughts on arriving in Clermont for the summer were about the pier and our friends from previous summers. No sooner had we unpacked we would change into a bathing suit, grab a towel, and run, not walk, to the pier.
It was a beautiful pier, built years before when Clermont was expected to be the Riviera of New Orleans. It was high, but more importantly, it was long: 900 feet with a covered platform at the end. That is where people congregated.
In those days, there was an active civic association. It promoted the idea that folks, even those who had beach-front property, should not have their own piers, but should instead support the one long community pier.
I can remember that my father was one of those who promoted the pier. He would sometimes call attention to all the pickets standing without pattern off the beaches of Waveland and Bay St. Louis, the skeletons of bygone piers brought to ruin by occasional blows. (An 1857 map that has recently been discovered discloses no less than 65 piers for those two towns.)
In my boyhood years, there was only one other pier in Clermont, a private one in front of the Chalona residence. It too met its end (like Chardin’s diminishments) in a little squall and was not rebuilt.
The wonderful thing about the Clermont pier was that no one could go there and be a stranger very long. It is where the regulars would go, where we would likely find our friends from previous summers, where we would introduce new friends to others. It was also where mothers would come to sit while children swam; they too would be sure to find others to converse with while they enjoyed the shade and the breezes.
The ’47 hurricane was strong enough to demolish the pier, but because the townspeople recognized its importance it was rebuilt. Partly, the reconstruction was done with salvaged pieces of the first pier; there was enough to build a 600-foot replacement.
Is this one of the reasons why Clermont was such a beloved place in those years? I think so. Chardin may have only been musing – fantasizing – about the earth’s progressions being caused by its being round, but when I think back on the Clermont pier, I recognize that he was delivering a profound and practical truth.