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Erratic Boulders

Blogs Mike Jacka, CIA, CPA, CPCU, CLU Jul 28, 2020

​I learned a new phrase the other day — glacial erratic.

According to Wikipedia (and let's not cast too many aspersions on that source right now; this definition will be close enough to serve today's purposes), a glacial erratic is glacially deposited rock differing from the size and type of rock native to the area in which it rests. Picture in your mind's eye those giant boulders that unrelatedly perch on top of the earth. (Or do a search; you'll see plenty of pictures to be used by your mind's eye the next time.)

I stumbled across the phrase while looking for information related to something I read in Lynda Barry's book, The Greatest of Marlys. Ms. Barry is a painter, cartoonist, writer, illustrator, playwright, editor, commentator, and teacher. She is the creator of the seminal comic strip, "Ernie Pook's Comeek," and has written three fantastic, creative-how-to graphic novels. (Those three, as well as several of her other books sit on the shelf directly to my right.) Oh yeah. She recently won a MacArthur grant. That ain't too shabby.

On page 153 of the book is "Erratic Boulders," the panel that set me off on my search. It contained a conversation among three kids as they were being driven back from visiting a park where the landscape had been shaped by glaciers. The conversation turns quite poignant, speaking of change, loss, and compassion. Quite an accomplishment in a four-panel story. But an accomplishment with which Ms. Barry's readers have become quite familiar. (I was unable to find a copyrighted version online. It looks like, if you want to see/read the comic, you'll have to buy the book. You shan't be sorry.)

Moved by the story and intrigued by the title, I began my search. And that is where I learned about glacial erratics. A long, strange trip.

There are a lot of different ways I could go with all this. I could talk about how internal auditors need to be like a glacial erratic — part of an organization's landscape, but not of the landscape. Closely related, but not quite the same, I could discuss how we need to be a part of, but recognized as separate from, our surroundings.

I also could go into how the forces around us forge us into the kind of internal auditors we need to be, and how we must be aware of that impact, be it positive or negative. I could dive into one of my favorite topics: that you never know how, when, why, or where you are going to learn something. And I could bring up an even-more-favorite topic: how we sometimes need to learn things just to learn things — get into the practice of learning.

But I'm going with none of the above … or all of the above … or some of the above. In other words, go ahead and determine what most resonates with you.

Which leads to another point. You don't have to look to others to explain life, the universe, and internal audit. Stretch your mind and take a stab at it yourself.

A glacial erratic. Kind of a cool sounding phrase. And kind of a cool thing to know. And, ultimately, one more piece of information that fits into the puzzle of our life, a puzzle for which we are always searching to find pieces, knowing full well that the puzzle will never be finished.

But, that's OK. Because we know it is a continual work-in-progress, made better with each piece we add, no matter how inconsequential that piece may seem.

Mike Jacka, CIA, CPA, CPCU, CLU

Co-founder and Chief Creative Pilot, Flying Pig Audit, Consulting, and Training Services (FPACTS), based in Phoenix.