Hazard

I was walking back to the city, lost in my own thoughts, through an arched gate.  Why, I asked myself, does this arch not collapse, since after all it has no support?  It remains standing, I answered, because all the stones tend to collapse at the same time – and from this thought I derived an indescribably heartening consolation, which stayed by me right up to the decisive moment:  I too would not collapse, even if all my support were removed.

That…no book could have told me, and I call it a true lesson from nature….

Kleist, letter to Wilhelmine von Zenge, November 16, 1800

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Everywhere a stone is touching a stone.  And here, over this pitiless ground, one approaches something delicate:  there is a way of placing one stone on another which irrefutably announces a human act, as distinct from a natural hazard.

John Berger, The Shape of a Pocket , 2001

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