Do you count the face card of a dealer’s card when he counts the blackjack in front of him? Do you count the cards on the table when the casinos count the money out? Those are important questions about our money, the money of which we’re just as much a participant as the casino is in the process. It’s not for us to decide what constitutes money, but to help people understand that money, like every other commodity, comes with a name — just as it came with a name in the world of stone.
As we travel, we’re often astonished to discover that our money doesn’t even come from anywhere, but from the place that most commonly provides it: a rock. From rocks, they gather minerals — calcium carbonate, magnesium silicate, iron oxide. They gather rocks and turn raw materials into new minerals, turning minerals that are no longer needed into money. The oldest rock we know (the limestone of the Black Sea) was deposited millions of years ago, and the earliest recorded use of such stones as money seems to date to about 5,000 years ago (or thereabouts).
We also discover that we use the stones of nature not just to build our homes, but also to form friendships, create art, create art, and even save our lives. In those ways, rocks can be said to be more than tools. Indeed, rocks can be more than what rocks are. Rocks can also be much more than rock, which we perceive as rocks.
Our relationships with rock-based materials are quite unusual, if not downright strange. The rocks can be the building blocks of everything from rock art to art and science. The trees also make rock art, and the plants can serve the same purpose. Rocks can be part of the fabric of our world, and it is only in the context of the world of rocks that these connections begin to shine.
We’re not alone in using rocks as money. But not only do we use stones as both building structures and the building material of our lives, we use them to make and restore the planet.
The Earth is not our only planet, and other rocks can and do play key roles in the functioning of our planet. These include the rocks that compose our oceans, our seas, and our lakes, and the rocks that comprise the soils that form our forests, and the rocks that form rock art. What do rocks bring to our planet? Some, it turns out, can take on a whole host of different properties.
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