You know what’s cool? A big ol’ pile of rocks.
No, we’re being absolutely serious here: Small, precariously perched stones arranged to form larger monuments can be found pretty much wherever human beings have ended up over the last few thousand years, making them kind of simple, transcendent markers of place and time.
Still unconvinced? Well, this National Geographic essay on “cairns”—as these rock piles are badass-ly called—makes a better case than we can:
The desire to stack rocks is understandable from a practical, aesthetic, and spiritual perspective. It seems almost primal. “As a species, we evolved in rocky landscapes,” says David B. Williams, who wrote the book Cairns: Messengers in Stone. “We have been building these things for thousands of years. They’re a way to say: I am here. I have lived.”
Pretty poignant, right? Anyway, these days it’s apparently not always the best idea to stack rocks in the wild, as NatGeo explains that “misplaced rock stacks can lead hikers off trail; endanger fragile ecosystems (like Acadia’s alpine plants); or, if stones are pried loose for cairn-making, promote erosion.” Also, depending on the location and circumstances, it’s kind of a dick move to imitate sites of great spiritual and cultural significance to local populations.
Luckily, given recent wonders in video game advancements, you don’t have to delve into the wilderness to make your own cairns at all! Instead, check out this oddly satisfying rock-stacking simulator courtesy of Neal Agarwal, in which you can... um... simulate stacking rocks in an oddly satisfying fashion. Be forewarned: Stacking rocks is far more difficult than it may first appear...
This is the best we got after a good ten minutes spent carefully balancing these stones atop one another. We even made it three-high before everything came crashing down, but just didn’t screenshot it in time, we swear. Anyway, it’s extremely difficult, and we’re over rock cairns now, especially after rewatching this over Halloween season.
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