The Principle of Least Astonishment

Given their chosen field of study, geologists aren’t widely considered to be keen observers of human behavior with a gift for poetic description. And yet, they’ve coined an apt and tantalizing turn of phrase to describe a phenomenon they’ve observed time and time again. And as it concerns terra that isn’t always firma, it can’t help but resonate deeply in the human psyche.

“The Principle of Least Astonishment” is a term earth scientists have conceived to describe those who build great houses astride the San Andreas Fault, then stand aghast when the front porch takes off for Mexico while the sundeck bounces towards Canada.

Deep down, we all need to believe that the earth beneath our feet is – well – solid as a rock. But it requires optimism measurable on the Richter Scale to think the planet has switched off its engine and all geologic construction has been completed on time and within budget. The world will always be a work in progress.

Whether considering big-picture geology, or the course of human events in our personal journeys through life, very few of us can reliably predict the moment or extent of seismic change. But even a little self-deception can derail the grandest of plans.

© Joe Baniecki, GoTraveler Reflections (2017)

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