Heutegesternmorgenwelt Resolved (Three Birds of Different Orders)

Samuel Nigro, Berlin, ostrich, owl, kingfisher

the kingfisher flying
free

a plastic owl portends
a thought

one ostrich slumps
dead

against my back
and
falls between rocks – sinking into the deep, wide River

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Bread, Granite and Heutegesternmorgenwelt

Samuel Nigro, Berlin, Drawing Samuel Nigro, Berlin, Drawing Samuel Nigro, Berlin, Drawing Samuel Nigro, Berlin, DrawingSamuel Nigro, Berlin, Drawing Samuel Nigro, Berlin, Drawing Samuel Nigro, Berlin, Drawing Samuel Nigro, Berlin, Drawing Samuel Nigro, Berlin, DrawingSamuel Nigro, Berlin, Drawing Samuel Nigro, Berlin, Drawing

Last week, I was in a state of Heutegesternmorgenwelt, which, word-for-word, translates as “today-yesterday-tomorrow-world,”
and means experiencing time as a non-linear complexity, which, as a definition,
doesn’t really ease you into the meaning of
Heute-gestern-morgen-welt; does it?

So, how does one understand Heutegesternmorgenwelt, then? What’s it like being in this sort of state? What does being in this World where the abstract expansiveness of Present-Past-Future, which Today-Yesterday-Tomorrow seems to imply, and where this doesn’t correspond to a sequence of events that follow logically or temporally and where this experience lacks cohesion, easy definition and isn’t apparent, obvious and transparent, actually feel like?
Where does such a concept exist, what does it yield and what is its consequence?
Since, I believed that I recently climbed out of one such state,
I’ve written this to try to give you a favor of what it is like
and, in the process, give a more suitable explanation
and get further away from this state;
and, at the same time, continue
to get a fuller picture
of what this term
means;

Get ready! There are some unconventional, experimental moves coming up:

 

As you may imagine, this Heutegesternmorgenwelt head space is not entirely pleasant – with the nightmares of phase transitions, multiple equilibrium points and activation energies to be reeled back or kicked in (all concepts important to Chaos Theory, which has something rather technical to say about non-linear complexity), manifesting as moving around the apartment trying to find a comfortable place to think, doing little tasks, avoiding others, taking a break by watching a 10-minute Youtube video about something I either know too much about, not enough or don’t care to know about at all but sit there and continue to watch anyway (and it rarely has to do with cats – mind you – I do have the will power to turn off cat-videos … if I want to). I oscillate from room to room, from idea to idea, and nothing goes further than a few gestures, nothing sticks; so, I eat bread, too much bread (because I am trying to regain a caloric and nutritional deficiency I accrued while in India; btw, I gleefully eat whole heads of lettuce, now that it’s safe … um … as a meal, not as a snack for avoidance behavior. Anyway …), that, since I am in Germany, is delicious and whose density of grains and seeds stays with me for days and renews my appreciation for the density of granite (whose etymology, incidentally, comes from the Latin ‘grano’ meaning grain(!) for its granular and crystalline properties making a perfect connection between the grainy, brick-like tastiness of German Bread – toasted and eaten with a slathering of Bio-Thise Butter from Demark and Bio-Blüten Honey from Germany, which excites rather than dulls, because these products lack the chemicals and doctoring of Monsanto, so prevalent in America) which, now, I am quite far away from working with and it looks like

“the Indian Shipper of some of the sculpture I made in India either never shipped it, threw it away and pocketed the money or the incompetence of “Incredible !ndia” has further scarred me by deciding to lose my sculpture in the shipping process and if the shipper would just answer my emails I could stop with the speculation (although I feel like flying right back to Varanasi and entering this guy’s shop with some choice non-Hindi words that I would make sure he understood, if only through non-verbal communication and tone);”

thus, to paraphrase, I am “time present and time past” which sometimes zips around time future that at the same time – even – also contains time past until you’re wondering what you’re doing back in time present so you digest your breakfast, which was a head of lettuce, toast some German Bread during an ill-timed and unplanned break, spill honey all over the tiny, shellacked-wooden kitchen table, drink coffee and wonder why you ever became curious about the formation of granite in the first place; and, this paraphrase of famous mystic modernism is not meant in the awesome, wonderous-ness, mysteriousness-ification that T.S. Elliot meant it to be. Rather, just … “Screw that …”

[“Whoa?!” I hear you saying, “Screw that …? – That’s pretty harsh. What or Who are you referring to, anyway? Where did that come from?! Because this is a bit of ramble, you know” Ok. Stop with the quotations. Just wait: I’ll continue. I followed … um … complicated …

 I was turned on to, and – while ignoring my strengths – wasted my time with … and with T.S. Elliot’s Four Quartets in College …

{but I fear that this next part of the essay should be written later to give it justice … you’ll have to wait … or just read this stuff in between the ‘{}’ with rawness in mind, which has ended up being – once again – much more than I thought I’d write, or, if you want, ignore it altogether …

hey

See: I can’t go into all this digression, because it takes time to contemplate and to relay the past, as it is hard to get away from a present danger in reflexive rationalization about the present when retelling the past; that is if you are concerned about saying anything truthful about the past and not just to manipulate the present to fulfill your goals of the future … but this is even more far a field, but perhaps even more important because …

wait. wait.

… when I opened up a new Word Doc this morning and gave myself the playful game to try and use “Heutegesternmorgenwelt” in a sentence, I reveled in the grandness and absurdity of it, but had really no idea how to define it or explain it or what it was or what it could even refer to or how the mind could construct something to make sense of it and it is very different from well-worn, historical conceits such as “Good,” “Beauty,” “Wisdom,” let’s say – even “Wonder” and “Truth” and “Love” – that have standard, agreed-upon dictionary definitions and scads of histories and tombs written about or at least referring to but not well understood if you spend more than two or three sentences discussing them …

Ok, Ok, Sam …

… and if you are half-aware and not a zombie, you realize that how the mind conceives of an idea and the relationship of this construction to the outside world is not straightforward, and thus a concept can have different meanings, and different uses, for different people over different eras even while being called the exact same thing and, furthermore, we can assume, the way in which we define the way we define – with words like definition, explanation, meaning, use, knowledge, reference, representation, event – are subject to similar issues, so a path forward is not simply in the way in which we define everything in the first place, but then how we go about to investigate a specific issue after that, which is the context that things should be defined in the first place; but, what usually happens is that we use concepts in an informal, everyday sense that gets us by – in the sense that we think we are communicating – underneath, hidden, we (and that’s we in the present and historical sense) may hold different assumptions that if investigated, just a little, may reveal that a lot of mental activity took place among individuals, but no actual communication, or, at least, not the communication that we thought actually took place;

Sam: just, wait …

but, where does this issue of mental activity referencing the outside world end? … it doesn’t, or maybe we don’t know how it does … a framework of analysis may help; in fact, that’s exactly what you need – but, back to the point at hand – how about Heutegesternmorgenwelt? Well, this idea came out of some Never-Ever-Either-Or-Both-And La-La Land and …

… Sam! …

… and I started typing about this mental/german world space thing this morning that seems like something more than what I only, sometimes, experience and …

Stop!

… What!

Reign it in just a bit:

… er …

the myth vs. story vs. history debacle, and

… um …

the reference vs. meaning vs. knowledge loopiness,
or your knowledge, meaning, understanding
variety – really? this is big stuff.

Alright … and? …

Slow down.

… Ok … where’s my coffee …

Take one step at a time …

… and my Zimtschnecke …

… and Breathe.

… … … … …

… I breathe, and …

… this is a blog, not a memoir, and not a place that can demand any kind of attention span, but then if you are here and reading, you’ve chosen to be here. Thanks, by the way, because even though this has a stream of consciousness quality to it, I consider it part of being curious and part of my learning. And ‘writing?’ what I am doing. I mean: I’m trying to find the means and a venue to work with blocks of granite that are upwards to 50-tons and more … it’s about the breaking of stone and the breaking of space, the reunification of material, of thought, and the renewal of space, the flourishing of movement, unfettered by barriers and constraints of all physical, social and political variety if I can even name them, which I find so difficult; it is reclaiming the phrase “to know” and …

why don’t you breathe, again; writing is learning.

Ok … … … done … and so I jump into making art, a visual-physical-material activity that …

(Yeah, that’s right, Here I am: yet another set of blocked off text nested within another, and this nesting could go on and on … and in fact it did for about a week … and, after touching Heutegesternmorgenwelt, I wrote a personal story that day related to my first introduction to Four Quartets: it runs over 6000 words …

<<< The funny thing is this story, these experiences, never seemed relevant much past when they happened, but I kept writing anyway; in fact, I blocked most of this stuff out from that era, just moved on. I mean: I have had much heavier memories of classes, teachers and events that have loomed much larger and that have seemed to have greater significance for me, that have stayed with me and consumed much more of my time, and, somehow, in Heutewelt, Today-world, I write about what I believed to be the miniscule, the insignificant, the tiny. Maybe, this is the case because …

[[[I once grew my moustache for 5-months, uncut and unadulterated, and I discovered some of my acquaintances had a difficult time with it, and not because it started to actually look like Nietzsche’s moustache, but, I think, because there was nothing contrary about it and there wasn’t an alternate meaning to be discovered and there was no indication that there was an inside club to belong to who actually knew why I had a moustache – and, I think, that was odd, maybe scary for people. I mean: I really had – as strange as it looked for our present moment – a 5-month old moustache, nothing more

{{{ok. ok. so I trimmed the length of the beard and I groomed my eyebrows occasionally and

((((seems unlikely anything else should be said in the middle of a passage {{{{why are you still writing. finish this!}}}} about personal appearance, hygiene and, by implication, the body, but the issue is that we need to start climbing out of this [[[[that’s right, get going!]]]] and how that happens is …

(((((through …Patience. Waiting. Observing. Listening … Acting…)))))

… well I’m not sure, This is a first draft and on a blog and I was going to take everything in the grand ‘()’ out, throw it away, but I’m glad it stayed in because

[“hey is this essay even grammatically correct? I don’t think so!?” … Listen, Mr. Quotations: Shut up!]

I liked using the phrase ‘flabby potatoes’ and referencing Darth Vader and if I decide to go through with another draft, I bet I might engage with bigger themes like, let’s say, the Rise and Fall of the British Empire

[“Ha! and why not the Roman Empire, too! And, while your at it, the Ming Dynasty was pretty interesting with Sun Tzu and all that – ”

Sun Tzu was much earlier than Ming, you Ding-Dong. Why are you still talking, anyway? …

“Oh yeah, I know that, by about 900 years, but my point is …”

stand down. both of you. we are moving on … Hey New Guy: will you press ‘publish’].))))

otherwise stayed hygienic – but that’s it – seriously}}};

it was really my moustache in reference to nothing else and not anti-anything and not self-consciously contrary to itself, to some cultural movement or even to the concept of the non-moustache; the moustache just was, and by implication, which I believe fanned the fear, I could easily grow it for another 5 months, or 5 years! Way, way – on, on, on – into the future! Into Morgenwelt, Tomorrow-world. Could we endure the Moustache? I think became the question. These things I guess are supposed to have some attitude, ambiguity or trickery or something. It made no difference to my friends that I named my moustache “Caesar”]]]

… it is the easiest or perhaps it is the only thing that I am capable to write about, to deal with, now – to get at, or, is it, get away from Heutegesternmorgenwelt. Perhaps, this is a characteristic of Heutegesternmorgenwelt, in itself: the revelation of or through and the struggle with and among the miniscule, the insignificant, the momentary, the instantaneous and what lingers on from it. Man, I need to make some sculpture.>>>

This story bumps into the metaphysics of the body and of time, the work of Friedrich Nietzsche, The Grinch who stole Christmas and Cindy-Lou Who, gravity, Creation, Creationism, evolution, Original Sin, flabby potatoes and relationships of various kinds. To give a taste of the relationship theme, a quote:

But, I do remember thinking: “what’s he doing? I’m witnessing this.” I wondered what she thought, and then – with ears pricked up – I wondered what he thought she thought or, more precisely, what he thought he hoped she thought; and, I can unceremoniously and with no aggrandizement state that I didn’t concern myself with the thought about what I hoped she thought he thought or what she hoped he thought he meant and so I just sat and observed them both.

That quote leads to this quote:

… and that, third, however horrible I was at communicating, however uncomfortable it made me feel, and because of the possibility of obliviousness and in spite of the fact that this may not be any of my business, but because she was important to me in a way that I still can’t articulate, I needed to find a way to talk with her about this breakfast [of the flabby potatoes, obviously].

There is also mention of a Ferris wheel and a pirate-shaped shirt and a prototypical French beret, black; also, of bacteria and detritivores, Kant’s categorical imperative, and Meine Verdunkelung der Gesternwelt, my blacking out of Yesterday-world.

Oh, golly! How could I forget: I got Darth Vader in there as well. This isn’t the final word on Heutegesternmorgenwelt since it is … just … well … and … I’m not going to put every experimental idea I have out there into the internet machine, especially in one post; and, besides, this should suffice to give you a flavor.)

… the pop-o-psychological common-o stance is that to begin, to make art, you don’t really need a theory of art; to make art you don’t need to write anything about it – just make! – uninhibited and unplanned and unbridled, at least that is the bird’s eye view pop advice, what many will claim; and, from a series of view points this approach is useful. I have often needed a gargantuan effort with, at times, Cyclopsian brutality, to throw out all the theory of the who, what, where, when, why and how of You, Me and the Universe and to make something, but it’s hard to stay away from all that for very long, especially – well – if your concerned about … uh … anything, such as … understanding the confinements and parameters of history – of yours, theirs and of the field of sculpture – and of space, of place and of claims … and making something relevant to you and me, given the confinements and parameters of us … to straddle the tension of atomizing dichotomies – about not being beholden and making something that releases, that others see and experience. Art, for me, has the element of getting rid of influence, of all teachers, and finding your own marginalized self as you have to face the possibility that this all maybe a misdirection at best and possibly a fool’s errand at worst … It also has the element of a basic engagement with a space, a time, a movement and bodies … and my efforts try to highlight alienation if only by attempting at community, contact, connection.}

and the quote I’m referring to is the beginning of Four Quartets:

Time present and time past
Are both perhaps present in time future
And time future contained in time past.
If all time is eternally present
All time is unredeemable.

There were some benefits to pummeling through T.S. Elliot’s Four Quartets by myself and I also can change my mind about all this as the contingencies about this decision continue to reveal complications and curiosities; and, in short, it is my life purpose to address the causes, casualties, catastrophes within the context of consequence and contemplation – put another way with an additional, tiny twist: at my worst, these are complications; and, at my best, these are curiosities.]

Anyway, I have drank too much coffee, continue to eat bread and lettuce; and, in the throes of my Heutegesternmorgenwelt,
I created these drawings (above) in quick succession, all in one sitting –
made, once again, in line with the previous posts,

Samuel Nigro, Berlin, Drawing

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Adjustment continues …

Samuel Nigro, Berlin, Drawing Samuel Nigro, Berlin, Drawing Samuel Nigro, Berlin, Drawing Samuel Nigro, Berlin, Drawing Samuel Nigro, Berlin, Drawing

I began these drawings as I did with the previous exercise;
and, as my adjustment from India progresses,
I drew these 5 in one sitting,
instead of one a day
over a span of a
few weeks.

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Out of India – reverse culture shock

Here are nine drawings I did to help ease the reverse culture shock I felt upon leaving India and arriving in Berlin 21 days ago.
I present the group in the order in which they were done,
unculled and unadulterated, raw.

Samuel Nigro, Berlin, Drawing

Samuel Nigro, Berlin, DrawingSamuel Nigro, Berlin, Drawing

Samuel Nigro, Berlin, Drawing

Samuel Nigro, Berlin, Drawing

Samuel Nigro, Berlin, Drawing

Samuel Nigro, Berlin, Drawing

Samuel Nigro, Berlin, Drawing

Samuel Nigro, Berlin, Drawing

Samuel Nigro, Berlin, Drawing

 

This drawing exercise is basic.

I start with ordinary, common material: office paper (8.5 x 11”) and a fine, rollerball office pen, which took away any pressure of treating the material as precious or with affectation. I just needed to get ideas out, and quickly. Spending somewhere between 16 and 43 minutes on each, I made a mark and then slowly made another and another, always building upon the previous one; gradually increasing speed, I marked again and again and again, building momentum as I went – the marks became lines; the lines, boundaries; the boundaries, forms and eventually I fell back to making marks again. Slowing down, I end the process as I feel my mind beginning to shift back to its everyday functionality.

For this post, I thought about listing the many differences between what I experienced in India and getting back to this shockingly familiar Western environment as a way to explain this reverse culture shock, but I decided against this, because any list that I came up with either came off as an unbalanced rant, or was void of context and open to misinterpretation.

Over the last few years, writing and language has become more important to me, partially because of this blog, but more precisely because I have been asking different questions of myself and have needed a way to research them, which my trip to India has accelerated. I was warned years ago that if I wanted to excel at writing then don’t have a blog! This was told to me out of the belief that writing is rewriting and the writing process takes time to go deep and communicate the subtly of your subject (I see this now. I believe it); and that a blog, being biased toward clicks and links and views and the desire for immediate now-ness and short attention spans that the internet generates, is not conducive to this sort of reflection and review – in short, not conducive to good writing (I feel this one. Still thinking, and beginning to heed).

So, I am going to give myself more time to figure out how to process and communicate this India project, as I push to complete it,
and to formulate what exactly the next project is going to be.
I’m not deleting my Internet presence, but some redefining is in order.
I will, however, try to convey the disjunction I feel in this transition from India
with two short anecdotes.

I.
First, since arriving in Berlin,
I have not heard a car or motorcycle horn or bicycle bell once – not once! – which is a shock to my system, since in India honk, honk, honking and horns and bellowing, bumping and noise – dust – are everywhere, all the time, constantly. This probably has to do with the sheer concentration of people in India. From my perspective, the flow of people, conveyance and animals is thick, wild and relentless. I suspect the honking, which doesn’t seem to change behavior or influence the traffic in any discernable way, gives the honker a sense of control in this chaotic environment and an outlet for harsh emotions. The honking is totally in their control, something that they alone can do, when all around them there is uncertainty, such as policemen (who look more like soldiers to me) with sticks and clubs who will smack you if you disturb the flow (or maybe the police use those sticks to protect themselves from the river of traffic constantly coming at them – don’t know, probably both).

The more uncertainty, chance and unpredictability (perceived or otherwise) in a population’s environment, the more superstition, ritual and irrationality crop up. There are numerous studies to this effect. I think of the one about American Baseball. Batters, whose task is filled with uncertainty and who are more likely to strike out or get hit by the ball than get on base, are filled with routine upon ritual upon superstition upon irrational behavior in order to cope with the feeling of uncertainty of trying to hit a ball zipping past them at 100 mph. It is close to just, plain chance if they hit the ball. Then, there are outfielders. Their job is set, simple and wholly predictable. If a ball ever comes their way (Ha! there is a lot of standing around time for outfielders!), they are bound to catch it with ease; and, thus, you find essentially zero rituals and superstitions for an outfielder. I < 3 irrationality, because it pushes and reveals the limits of how highly refined our bodies and minds are to take in the stimuli of the universe. It is at these boundaries where our perceptions break down and mistakes are made that tell how we work, how we are put together and who we are.

Now back to the traffic comparison: Berlin, in contrast, is under-populated and has space to spare; and, like I said, not one honk, so far. No gaggle of police with long sticks acting like a traffic light or, more to the point, a dam to prevent an intersection from getting clogged. In Berlin, the streets are wide; it’s easy to get around and a joy to ride a bike. And, besides, it is highly unlikely you’ll ever need to swerve around a dead animal – or an incidental group of ungulates that reduce four lanes down to one (to which … you guessed it … people honk and honk at such a scene that does nothing to get the animals to chew their cud faster and move on) – to get to your destination safely and timely. I’ve been hyped up with the sound of the horn in India and downshifting during this transition has not been easy.

II.
Second, I miss the gesture of putting
the palms of one’s hands together in front of one’s chest in the prayer position and giving eye contact and a slight bow as a common form of salutation. I like this gesture so much, because it requires all of you, it focuses every part of you, and beckons the other person to respond in kind. People greet each other this way all the time in India and, when performed, it levels the interaction. I loved doing it, because it garners a feeling of respect within you and for the other person and it is very hard to carry malice when performing or seeing such a gesture.

I went to a dance club the other night in Berlin and was introduced to the doorman at the VIP entrance. At the prescribed cultural cue, after our mutual friend introduces us so that we may enter, the doorman and I extend our right hands to one another and offer a firm Alpha-friendly greeting to one another – eye contact, smiles, happy (the act of a hand shake is rare and much more reserved in India; however, I frequently received the offer of a hand shake from an Indian at odd and inappropriate times that set off internal alarm bells of caution, confusion and mistrust, and set me on edge. Obviously, no one shakes hands with such energy like this German doorman and I indulged in).

Over the thump of Techno bass, breathing in the cross-cultural bonhomie as our joined forearms bate like an ostrich trying to fly, I declare with an ironic German formality that my name is Sam and that I am very pleased to meet him. He accepts my orthodox German greeting with a warm smile and responds in a jolly, Berliner dialect, which I didn’t fully understand but interpreted as “Awesome. Me, too. Have a great time and see you soon.” When our grip loosens and we each take our hand back, I unconsciously put my hands together in front of my chest, maintain eye contact and give a slight bow. It was like a Pavlovian response to express the love and good-will in my heart because I felt grateful for his gesture of kindness of letting us into the club, unmolested by the cover charge and sinuous line waiting to get in. I felt like I made a new friend, and it felt good to perform that gesture. However, I realized right away how weird this must seem in a Western Context, but that I miss this style of greeting very much.

-

Anyway, I have more to say – more to show, more to do – with respect to India and with respect to my art.
I have more that I am curious about, more questions to ask. As I transition back to a Western Culture,
I will evaluate how I will explore, express and process all this.

In the meantime, I have reworked a description of what motivates me to make art.
It is called Statement II ­– lightning, impulse and longing. You can find Statement I here; and, Statement III is on its way.

Statement II ­– lightning, impulse and longing

I was thirteen, hiking just below a snow-covered alpine. Without warning, the nape of my neck bristled: a sonic boom; white light, a metallic taste engorged my mouth. I was lifted, back arched, boots dangling above the ground. An instant later: the noise, the light, the taste stopped. I panicked to land on my feet … and did – startled, unhurt and, yet, unable to name what happened.

I forgot about this event – never thought of it again – until five years later when I happened to read about other people’s similar experiences, and realized, then, that the simplest thing I could say about this memory that rushed back was that I had been struck by lightning, but wasn’t really sure and didn’t know what it meant if anything; so, I kept it to myself for a long time, and, again, forgot about it until I was deep into to my art process and trying to figure out the relationships between meaning, knowledge and understanding as I learned about breaking and moving stone. As it turns out, repression, sublimation and the spotlight of one’s attention are three powerful mechanisms of the brain that creates meaning and motivation for us. I retell this story, now, because it is much like how I see myself having gotten into making art – the impulse seemed to come out from nowhere, seemed to come from a hidden motivation and a sudden unfolding of meaning.

However, before I knew “artist” was a career choice, I was conscious about the intellectual agitation that started me down this path, which was an epistemological longing, a how and why I know what I know. (Art offered me a way around the epistemological structures of the other disciplines I had studied; it initially got me out of all issues related to language, entirely; but only briefly).

Sculpture can have a phenomenological power (it comports a body through its perception of form and material, and gives new countenance to a space by creating a different place for contemplation or action), and people look towards sculpture, consciously or not, to satisfy or to lean on an ontological position (to confirm, challenge or change something within, often so one can, then, make a statement about the world or claim about reality without). And, as I crafted an art to give an outlet and expression to my questions, I realized my need to grapple with all three notions – the epistemological, phenomenological and ontological – did not disappear, because sculpture’s true force – liberation if you will – lies somewhere between these three, not resting within one.

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Intimidating, Humbling, Awesome – The Himalayas

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I think it is obvious why someone whose main artistic material is stone would want to see the highest mountain range in the world. The images don’t do justice, even though I’ve included quite a few. There is much I can say about this trek, and I also have other personal reasons to hike the Himalayas; however, intimidating, humbling, awesome sums it up and I won’t write much more about this publically for now, because this requires more time, reflection and thought. Oh … and yes, that is a stray dog, which followed us up the mountain and back down for two and a half days.

We hiked up to 13,200 ft. to Gomukh and the Gangotri Glacier, the traditional (or, more precisely, primary) source of the Ganga and one of the largest glaciers in the Himalayas. The glacier is melting, and it is melting, in part, because of Human induced Climate Change. I saw this occurring, but don’t take my word for it: this receding glacier has been well documented since the late 1700’s. Significantly, the rate of melt has increased dramatically since around 1990’s.

snSamuel Nigro, India, Gangotri, trek

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