Posts labeled Cosmology
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"Wherever we find Indians and whenever we inquire about their idea of God, they tell us that beneath the surface of the physical universe is a mysterious spiritual power which cannot be described in human images that must remain always the 'Great Mystery.'"
--Vine Deloria Jr. (1972)
A key part of "interconnectedness" is recognizing our connectedness to history, and the CONTINUING legacies of institutionalized injustice. This is one of the many reasons that racial justice, gender justice, economic justice, and peace-making have everything to do with interconnectedness.
To build a cosmology of connection we need the insights of scientists and ecologists AND the insights of youth who are rising up for racial, gender, and economic justice.
A large part of moving from our current cosmology (worldview) of separation and exploitation to a cosmology of connection involves de-centering white supremacy and patriarchy, and re-centering the voices, vision, and leadership of women, Indigenous people, queer folks, people with disabilities, poor folks, and people of color.
"Societies which admit that they constitute themselves through an on-going process of narrative are unlikely to degenerate into self-righteousness, fundamentalism or racism: that is, to take themselves literally... Fundamentalism only arises when a society conceals the fact that it is founded on narrative."
--Richard Kearney (1998)
"In Nyakyusa society... the main form of artistic expression is in ritual. Rituals are frequent and elaborate; great numbers of people attend them and the excitement is often intense.... The greatest ritual of all is that performed at the handing over of power from one generation to another, but it occurs only once in thirty years."
--Monica Wilson (1954)
"This materialistic philosophy leads inevitably into a dead end street in an intellectually senseless world.... It is much more sensible to say with Sir James Jeans, the physicist, that 'the universe seems to be nearer to a great thought than to a great machine,' or with Arthur Balfour, the philosopher, that, 'we now know too much about matter to be materialists.' Materialism is a weak flame that is blown out by mature thinking."
--Martin Luther King Jr. (1963)
"I come to you saying that I still believe that America has the resources and even the will to respond to the challenges of this hour. I refuse to accept the idea that man is so caught up in this evil system of racial injustice that he can't rise to new and marvelous heights of brotherhood. I refuse to accept the idea that man is little more than a tiny vagary of whirling electrons on a wisp of smoke from a limitless smoldering. I refuse to accept the notion that man is nothing but a cosmic accident, a disease on this planet not soon to be cured. I refuse to accept the idea that we can't rise up and reach the glad day of peace of brotherhood. So tonight I stand before you with a belief. I believe that the day can come, right here in America, when all of God's children will live together as brothers. I believe that there will be a day when justice will roll down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.... I believe somehow that things can get better and dark yesterdays can be transformed into bright tomorrows. I believe that the dignity and the worth of human personality will be respected one day. I believe this and I live by it."
--Martin Luther King Jr. speaking in Harlem (1964)
"The twentieth century witnessed the emergence of the disciplines of astrophysics and cosmology, from subjects which scarcely existed to two of the most exciting and demanding areas of contemporary scientific inquiry. There has never been a century in which fundamental ideas about the nature of our Universe and its contents have changed so dramatically.... This is a fantastic story, and one that would have defied the imaginations of even the greatest story-tellers."
--Malcolm Longair, The Cosmic Century: A History of Astrophysics and Cosmology (2006)
"Religion is about meaning making.... Religion... can also be understood as any system that organizes our life into a meaningful daily existence. Consumerism, the free-market economy, environmentalism, and other such systems can be analyzed as meaning-making practices, and in this sense they are religious."
--Whitney A. Bauman, Religion and Ecology (2014)
"One hundred years ago, and more, ... we knew--from physics itself--that the mechanistic construction of the world was inadequate. And yet, the more it failed intellectually, the more it was imposed politically and economically. And that's the history of the last century. It's failing deeply right now, and the violence with which it is propped up increases by the day."
--Dr. Vandana Shiva, Claremont, CA, June 5, 2015
"Metaphysics provides a general overview of fundamental aspects of existence; it offers a broad story about the universe and our place in it. Metaphysics provides a narrative about the origin of the cosmos (cosmology) and what it means to exist or 'be' (ontology). How we answer these questions is closely related to how we treat other life (ethics) -- what we hope for ourselves and how we understand our actions toward others."
--Brianne Donaldson, Creaturely Cosmologies: Why Metaphysics Matters for Animal and Planetary Liberation (2015)
"Whitman voiced ideas about man, society, and the universe that in many ways characterize the general perspective of the modern mind as affected by the ideas of science. He anticipated the big picture of the cosmos – energetic, pulsating, multitudinous, evolutionary, creative, many-layered, knowable, mysterious, individuated, and organized."
--Howard Parsons, "Whitman's World View" (1985)
A friend of Thomas Berry's once said to him after a talk, "Tom, you're a prophet." To which he replied, "No, I'm a shaman." Berry's concern was creating the conditions through which Western culture could regain a visionary, shamanic experience of the Earth and cosmos.
"I am cognizant of the interrelatedness of all communities and states. I cannot sit idly by in Atlanta and not be concerned about what happens in Birmingham. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly.... Paul Tillich has said that sin is separation. Isn't segregation an existential expression of man's tragic separation, an expression of his awful estrangement?"
--Martin Luther King Jr., "Letter from Birmingham Jail"
April 16, 1963
"The work of art will bring to light a new order inherent in things, and this will be: the idea of unity."
--Ferdinand Hodler (1923)
"Myths fall into two general categories... (1) cosmogonies--creation tales of origins and beginnings; and (2) hero quests--stories of warriors and world redeemers, individuals who serve as exemplary models for more ordinary mortals."
--Harry G. Carlson, Strindberg and the Poetry of Myth (1982)
"Although divinatory practices were well-known from the time of the Babylonians, print, chronic warfare, the growth of towns and cities, and the arrival of syphilis converged in the late fifteenth century to create a new horizon for astrological forecasting."
--Robert S. Westman, The Copernican Question: Prognostication, Skepticism, and Celestial Order (2011)
"What I'm really driving at is that the transplanting of millions of Africans into the West was an environmental switch, but there wasn't a simultaneous cosmological or worldview adjustment--the Black man didn't adopt Materialistic Thinking as a mode of defining his world. Society in Africa was communal and nature was respected; but the West is competitive, aggressive, capitalistic, and nothing is sacrosanct. The only thing that is respected in the West is organized power--the ability to back up your position with dollars, people, and force if necessary. People who achieve in the West are doers concerned primarily with how they can manipulate the environment and other people to their best advantage, and it matters not how they do it--as long as they do it in a practical manner. The attitude which leads to success in the West is the same attitude which makes evil so profuse. There is no morality because the only criteria of good or bad is whether or not the individual succeeds."
--Sterling D. Plumpp, Black Rituals (1972)
Dean Smith, head coach of the UNC Tarheels for 36 years.
Dean Smith sent $200 to each of his former players for the same reason he invented the now-universal gesture of pointing to the passer after a basket... He deeply understood the spiritual principle of UBUNTU... that we exist because of, and for, others. We are interdependent. There is no solo success.
Drew Dellinger speaking at the New Story Summit. Findhorn, Scotland.
A short video clip of my poem, "re:vision," from my talk at the New Story Summit at Findhorn in Scotland.
"Natural order provides the foundation for much of everyday moral thinking, and the origins of natural order can be invoked to justify the choice of one way of acting over another. We are not surprised by such arguments in the Homeric literature... nor by reports that link cosmogony and ethics in the traditional cultures of the Andes and highland Guatemala... We are, however, less prepared to see the impact of cosmogonic beliefs on the moral systems of our own society, both in popular thought and in theoretical reflection."
--Robin W. Lovin and Frank E. Reynolds (1985)
"The four patriarchal institutions that have governed western history could be listed as the political empires, the institutional church, the nation-state, and the modern corporation."
--Thomas Berry (1987)
"The universe is a psychic-spiritual as well as a physical-material reality from its beginning... We are, by definition, that being in whom the universe reflects on and celebrates itself in conscious self-awareness. We are the universe in its self-awareness phase. In and through this universe-identity we have our identity with that numinous mystery whence all things emerge into being."
--Thomas Berry (1987)
"To interest the children in the universe, we must not begin by giving them elementary facts about it, to make them merely understand its mechanism, but start with far loftier notions of a philosophical nature, put in an acceptable manner, suited to the child's psychology."
--Maria Montessori, "The Universe Presented to the Child's Imagination," chapter four in To Educate the Human Potential (1948)
Thomas Berry turned me on to this great book, To Educate the Human Potential, by Maria Montessori, which he discoverd after he had written about education and the universe. Berry used to say with a laugh, 'Everything I've been saying about cosmology and education, she said in the 1940s.'
"Let us give [the child] a vision of the whole universe. The universe is an imposing reality, and an answer to all questions. We shall walk together on this path of life, for all things are part of the universe, and are connected with each other to form one whole unity. This idea helps the mind of the child to become fixed, to stop wandering in an aimless quest for knowledge. He is satisfied, having found the universal centre of himself with all things.
Drew Dellinger speaking at the New Story Summit. Findhorn, Scotland.
[Transcript of Drew Dellinger's remarks on the opening day of the New Story Summit at Findhorn, Scotland. September 27, 2014.]
“everything is shining in glory
singing a story
if love is a language
then I am just
learning to spell
while there’s a story
that the stars
[Excerpt, "soulstice," by Drew Dellinger]
The first person to introduce me to the power of story was Thomas Berry, the American ecological and cosmological writer and thinker. In 1978 Thomas Berry wrote an essay called, “The New Story,” and it starts like this:
“It’s all a question of story. We are in trouble just now because we do not have a good story. We are in between stories. The old story, the account of how the world came to be and how we fit into it is no longer effective, yet we have not learned the new story.”
And so, Thomas Berry was very much talking about the function of stories and the power of stories—the meta-story about stories, as David Spangler just referred to. When I was first studying with Tom Berry in 1991 he said, “It seems that we basically communicate meaning by narrative, at least that’s my approach to things: that narrative is our basic mode of understanding. The difficulty that we’re into has come, to a large extent, from the limitations and inadequacies of our story. And what we need, I think, and what we really have, is a new story."
Now, there are several elements to the new story. All of you are bringing a different thread of the new story. But when Berry was talking about the new story, a lot of what he was talking about was our new understanding of the universe and the unfolding of the planet Earth, what you could call The Universe Story. And so, for Berry, this was an amazing opportunity for the Western tradition to reconnect to the sense of interdependence and interconnectedness that Indigenous peoples have always maintained, have always held in their wisdom traditions.
We need racial and economic justice on Planet Earth.
The following excerpts are from Thomas Berry: Reflections on His Life and Thought, by John Grim and Mary Evelyn Tucker (2010). These passages provide some background on Thomas Berry's philosophy of a "New Story" (1978), which laid much of the groundwork, and created much of the context, for many of today's discussions of a New Story.
"In 1978, Thomas [Berry] initiated the Teilhard Studies series with his essay, 'The New Story: Comments on the Origin, Identification, and Transmission of Values.' Here he called for the articulation of a new story of evolution and the emergence of life." (p. 2)
"While those graduate school days focused on historical and textual developments in the world's religions, Thomas encouraged us also to explore the cosmology of religions. Under his guidance we related rituals, texts, teachings, and commentarial studies to the stories of creation and metaphysical speculation about the world. We struggled to understand the history, anthropology, and sociology embedded in those stories. Thomas forged ahead, articulating broad understandings of historical interactions and cultural relationships.
Gradually we began to appreciate his interest in cosmology as that which orients humans to the universe and to nature itself. 'With a story,' he would say, 'people can endure catastrophe. And with a story they can gather the energies to change their lot.' For him the first place to look for a story was in history. He began with Western history and later moved to Asian history. He was part of the early group of world historians seeking to define the contours of our human movement across the planet. He mused that the West was in search of a comprehensive story and cited historians such as Oswald Spengler, Arnold Toynbee, Christopher Dawson, and Eric Vogelin to give nuance to his views. He drew on the philosopher of history, Giambattista Vico, stiching his arguments together with a sense of the sweeping ages of human and Earth history.... It was because of his remarkable grasp of world history that he could eventually make the transition into evolutionary history.... Gradually Thomas connected his study of history and evolutionary cosmology to the environmental issues of our day." (pp. 6-7)
"Increasingly he spoke of the rich creativity imparted by the Earth itself in its biodiversity. It was in the late 1980s that these ideas coalesced in his term 'Ecozoic.' This was his way of marking the end of a geological era in which thousands of species were disappearing each year.... But rather than leaving his audience in despair, he used the term Ecozoic to name the emerging period in which humans would recover their creative orietation to the Earth community.
He drew increasingly on the thought of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin for insight into the story of our times, namely, the emerging, evolutionary universe. Teilhard provided a large-scale vision of humans as situated within the vast context of cosmic evolution.... While Teilhard saw his work as science, Thomas narrated it as story." (pp. 7-8)
"Rather than settling on Teilhard's insights, however, Thomas pushed beyond to explore the conjunction of cosmology and ecology.... He wanted us to see that in a geological instant we were diminishing the life of ecosystems, rivers, and oceans. Our historical moment was as significant as the change implied in a geological era.
While flying back from an environmental conference in the Seychelle Islands, looking down over the Nile River at 30,000 feet, he realized that he was not a theologian, but rather a 'geologian.' With this term, he viewed himself as a human being who emerged out of eons of Earth's geological and biological evolution and was now reflecting on our world. This reflection was a way to reinvent the human at the species level.
The notion of reinventing to role of the human was enhanced when in 1982 Thomas met Brian Swimme who came to the Riverdale Center for a year of study.... Thomas' years of study of world history and religions were paralleled by Brian's comprehensive study of evolutionary history. From an intense decade-long collaboration including research, lectures, and conferences, there emerged in 1992 the jointly authoured book, The Universe Story. This was the first time the history of evolution was told as a story in which humans have a critical role.
After Thomas retired from teaching at the age of 64, he began some of his most significant writing in the area of evolutionary cosmology in relation to the ecological crisis. The Dream of the Earth was published in 1988, The Great Work in 1999, Evening Thoughts in 2007, and The Christian Future and the Fate of the Earth and The Sacred Universe in 2009. These books elaborated on the 'new story' of our shared cosmological journey." (pp. 8-9)
"STORY AS FUNCTIONAL COSMOLOGY
Thomas spoke frequently of our broken relationship with nature and the drift away from older traditional stories of creation. These breaks followed from the inability of contemporary scientific, religious, and philosophical narratives to locate humans in a meaningful relationship with Earth's ecosystems and their evolution over time. Ironically, as Thomas observed, the break with nature as well as with mythos, the storied magic of older cosmologies, occurred in the search for 'progress' and in the turn towards empirical reasoning as the exclusive guide to reality.... In an effort to move beyond our fixation with materialism that undermines our relationship with the natural world, Thomas spoke of a 'functional cosmology.' His concern was that we had lost emotional, affective connection with the processes of life embedded in the emergence of the cosmos itself. In the past, connection with these vital processes enabled a people and their cultural traditions to function so that they knew the deeper meaning of their life and work.
The transformative key for Thomas was story, namely, a narrative telling of our origins and our purpose. An origin story was, for Thomas, the most accepted explanation of reality. Narrated in ritual settings, woven into the structures of cities, celebrated in daily food and drink, these traditional stories provide meaning and direction for people in everyday life. But having lost their grounding in the natural world upon which we depend, many of these stories, and the institutions they spawned, ceased to function in a vital manner.
For Thomas then, contemporary humans are in between stories, that is, we have lost our connection to traditional cosmologies, and we have been unable to weave a functional cosmology from our collective scientific data. It is from within this context that Thomas forged his career as an engaged historian interested in articulating a new and functional cosmology.
Thomas' emphasis on the cultural transmission of coherence and meaning throughout history brought him to one of his most singular insights regarding the cosmological stories of a people:
It's all a question of story. We are in trouble just now because we do not have a good story. We are in between stories. The Old Story--the account of how the world came to be and how we fit into it--is not functioning properly, and we have not learned the New Story. The Old Story sustained us for a long period of time. It shaped our emotional attitudes, provided us with a life purpose, energized action. It consecrated suffering, integrated knowledge, guided education. We awoke in the morning and knew where we were.
.... When a human community's collective story disintegrates, that community experiences a dislocation symbolized most acutely by the loss of human orientation with the natural world." (pp. 10-11)
He sensed that humans had lost their way of being integrated into a larger cosmology. He pointed toward religious and cultural cosmologies in which humans relate to their bioregions as their most immediate experience of place. (p. 12)
In elaborating the character of awakening, Thomas Berry has drawn out the inner working of mythic forces and concomitant sensitivities that call for both individual and institutional change. Finally, Thomas provided creative historical analysis to the new cosmology in ways that expand Teilhard's thought into ecological concerns.
.... Thomas observed that our desire for action may require even deeper contemplation of the roots of these problems. This is why he pointed us toward the universe story as a comprehensive context for responding to our ecological role in the modern world--a world that is being ravaged by industrial production and extraction. For Thomas, universe emergence as the story of our time can evoke in humans awe, wonder, and humility. At the same time, as a functional cosmology, it can encourage the 'great work' of ecological restoration and environmental education so needed in our times.
Since meeting Thomas Berry some 40 years ago we have become more aware of the many layers of his thinking that have organic continuity with one another. Among these layers the following can be noted: the play of texts, institutions, and personalities in the history of religions; the cultural-historical settings in which religions emerge and develop; the inherent and formative relationship of local bioregions and indigenous societies; the complex relations between and among the world's religions; cosmological expressions within the various religions; the awakening to our growing realization of the continuity of the human with the community of life; and the evolutionary story as a functional cosmology for our multicultural planetary civilization.
.... Drawing out his syllables in a laconic North Carolinian manner, he would calmly elucidate complex topics that deeply engaged him. This reflective style enabled him to ponder both the problematic story of our industrial age as well as the 'new story,' the recovery of human energy and reinvention of the human spirit. Indeed for him the 'new story' was an engaged participatory event in which the universe was present in the telling." (pp. 19-20)
--John Grim and Mary Evelyn Tucker, Thomas Berry: Reflections on His Life and Thought (2010)
"There is a widespread conviction that the new teachings of astronomy and physical science are destined to produce an immense change on our outlook on the universe as a whole, and on our views as to the significance of human life."
--Sir James Jeans, The Mysterious Universe (1931)
every being is a gift of the galaxy
"Dust, laughter, nothingness: our all
is born of the nonsensical."
--Glycon (21 CE)
Here's a new, short video clip from the good folks at the Science & Nonduality Conference:
Drew Dellinger on Martin Luther King Jr.'s ecological and cosmological worldview:
WATCH the VIDEO
"Muir's writings indicate that the clearest avenue to the ecological position is beauty. In the perception of beauty, we overcome civilization and participate in God--'no synonym for God is so perfect as Beauty'--and affirm our own 'most richly Divine' nature. For Muir, beauty was no effete concept, and not a casual activity for leisure time: it was the key to wild nature and thus self-nature. The purely anthropocentric mind is closed to beauty on this level; a 'streaming,' open consciousness is required.
Muir's chief technique for inspiring this border-crossing kind of consciousness is to show all nature as alive and moving, so that the ordinary Lockeian theory of mind--a separate 'subject' perceiving 'objects'--is transcended."
--Thomas J. Lyon (1972)
Passage from Alan Watts:
We need to become vividly aware of our ecology, of our interdependence and virtual identity with all other forms of life which the divisive and emboxing methods of our current way of thought prevent us from experiencing. The so-called physical world and the so-called human body are a single process, differentiated only as the heart from the lungs or the head from the feet. In stodgy academic circles I refer to this kind of understanding as "ecological awareness." Elsewhere it would be called "cosmic consciousness" or "mystical experience." However, our intellectual and scientific "establishment" is, in general, still spellbound by the myth that human intelligence and feeling are a fluke of chance in an entirely mechanical and stupid universe--as if figs would grow on thistles or grapes on thorns. But wouldn't it be more reasonable to see the entire scheme of things as continuous with our own consciousness and the marvelous neural organization which, shall we say, sponsors it?
Metaphysical as such considerations may be, it seems to me that their issues are earthy and practical. For our radically misnamed "materialistic" civilization must above all cultivate the love of the material, of earth, air, and water, of mountains and forests, of excellent food and imaginative housing and clothing, and of cherishing and artfully erotic contacts between human bodies."
--Alan Watts (1971)
AN EARTH DAY MEDITATION
This reflection on the planet was written for Earth Day in 1992 or '93, as a student at Prescott College. I had just organized a visit to Prescott College by Thomas Berry in February of '92, and the general spirit of this piece, and much of the language, are inspired by the work of Thomas Berry and Brian Swimme.
--Drew Dellinger, Earth Day 2014
Ecology is the study of interconnections. We cannot understand anything apart from the infinite relationships that comprise the total web of reality. We cannot fully know the spotted owl without knowledge of the redwoods it lives in, the mice it eats, and the enzymes in the mouse dung that promote the growth of massive redwoods. Swooping through the misty branches of the ancient forest, the owl is integral with the evolving dynamic of the ecosystem. Clenching a trembling mouse in its bloody claw, the forest is moving through the apparently separate forms of owl and mouse. All participants in the life system are members of a single, unified process unfolding over millions of years. As Thomas Berry has said, a species isolated from the context in which it functions is an abstraction -- it doesn't exist.
We cannot fully understand the earth without some sense of the context in which it functions: the universe. Nor can we know the human being apart from the community of the earth and cosmos. The universe gives birth to the earth; the earth gives rise to the human. All phenomena are aspects of a comprehensive ecosystem, intertwined through 14 billion years of continuing emergence. The archetypes of the human psyche, the migratory patterns of birds, the fury of an electrical storm, the violent brilliance of a supernova explosion -- all of these are universe dynamics. The cosmos is the solitary mover, acting through the pantheon of shapes.
the hour is so late...
Jacques Cousteau says that if we keep dumping toxic waste into the ocean at current rates, the ocean will be dead in fifty years. We all know what that means. This is an ocean planet. If the ocean dies, that's it -- it's over... and the 14 billion years that it took to evolve polar bears and ostriches, manatees, Michelangelo, and Granite Mountain will have been negated. If we kill this planet, human ignorance and arrogance will have undermined the 14 billion years the universe needed to birth this precious earth -- a magic sphere where the incredible complexity of life could unfold; a flowering of the cosmos's inner dimensions.
If we kill this planet, we humans will have snubbed our nose at the very universe dynamic that gave us our being. If we kill this planet, we will have committed a sacrilege against the beautiful and mysterious dance of the cosmos. What is happening over these billions of years? What is developing on this tiny planet? A planet that was once molten rock and now thrives with this miraculous canopy of living forms.
About four billion years ago the earth was a boiling orb of flowing lava. The rains came pouring down for eons, hissing steam upon the glowing molten surface, evaporating up into an endless hydro-cycle. Eventually the earth cooled and the ocean mother formed. The secret aspects of the earth's creativity began to emerge into existence. The planet began to express herself as life. First one-celled organisms, then algae. What's going on here? We don't know of life anywhere else in the universe and here it is -- fish and sharks and crocodiles. Green plants sprout up and cover the continents; lizards are scurrying about and birds are soaring through the air.
Then the last few million years, and the earth begins to articulate herself as the forms we see around us. As Brian Swimme notes, this planet that had once been molten rock now expresses itself as giraffes and clouds, pandas, symphonies, slugs, and canyons. What marvelous beauty is blossoming on this planet, and in what direction is this heading?
The cosmic process, the earth process, and the human process are one process. We are a dimension of the universe. The earth expresses herself through each of us. The earth writes poetry and tells stories. The universe builds temples and discusses philosophy. All forms and activities are the various media through which the one energy is manifest.
When we are moved by the colors of a sunset, the earth is reflecting beauty back on itself.
The radiance of the sun burns through the empty black of space, bounces off the moon, and shines on the smiling face of a human. The human is filled with reverence, and marvels at the beauty of earth's shadow on the lunar sphere. Every atom in this scene was formed in a supernova explosion. We are born from the death of a star. Stardust flows in rivers and writes haiku.
Ineffable Sacred Presence, moving as space-time; beautiful, mysterious.
--Drew Dellinger (circa 1992-3) Inspired by the work of Thomas Berry and Brian Swimme.
Just received a new volume of scholarly essays on the work of Thomas Berry, edited by Heather Eaton. Here's a passage from the entry by John Grim:
"As a storyteller Berry guided his students into the power and engagement of cultural worldviews. Like all storytellers, Thomas had an intuitive sense of his own rhetorical power; but unlike many storytellers he seldom drew on personal anecdotes or the large gesture. He was more given to intellectual pursuits than solipsistic insight or emotional arguments.... Drawing out his syllables in a laconic North Carolina manner, he would calmly elucidate topics that truly excited him. Ultimately, what framed his educational enterprise was a historical vision increasingly integrative of time and space.... He had an abiding patience for the fluidities, shape-shiftings, and porosities of myths in transmitting values. Story, then, for Thomas held potential as primal narration arising from the most authentic engagement with interiority. Story did not imply simply a passive reception by a listener. Rather, story required an active, participatory, mutual interaction in which the story was present, alive, and in movement through teller, telling, and audience. The movement of story was for Thomas, therapeutic and transformative. In ways it can be said that he held a shamanic interpretation of the transformative healing transmitted in stories."
--John Grim, "Exploring Thomas Berry's Historical Vision,"
in The Intellectual Journey of Thomas Berry, Heather Eaton, ed.
"My approach to cosmology is, cosmology is the basic opening of the human consciousness to the universe. It takes its first expression in language and its typical linguistic form, or literary form, is imagination. Imagination, myth and symbol, and ritual."
(Interview with Drew Dellinger, December 26, 2006)
"When I talk to college administrators and college presidents, I say that ecology is not a course. It's not a program. It's a foundation of all courses, all programs, all professions. Because ecology is a functioning cosmology. It's the way the universe functions. It's the way the Earth functions. And to be able to think this way is the beginning of survival. Because right now we are not in a survival mode, because we are disrupting things."
--Thomas Berry (December 1998)
(Interview with Drew Dellinger and Prescott College students.)
"It seems that we basically communicate meaning by narrative, at least that's my approach to things: that narrative is our basic mode of understanding. It gives us a sense of life as we experience it. The difficulty that we're into has come, to a large extent, from the limitations and inadequacies of our story. And what we need, I think, and what we really have, is a new story."
--Thomas Berry, Earth & Spirit Conference, 1990 (Edited by Drew Dellinger)
"Depth is what the word God means, the source of your being, of your ultimate concern, of what you take seriously without any reservation. 'Life has no depth. Life is shallow. Being itself is surface only.' If you could say this in complete seriousness, you would be an atheist; but otherwise you are not. He who knows the depth knows about God."
"We don't seem to get the idea of the planet in its functional aspects and its limitations, and [how to] begin to live equitably within those limitations... We are told there are no limits; we can do anything we want to if we have the genius; science will take care of it..."
--Thomas Berry, Lectures in Assisi (1991)
"I come from North Carolina... We have an extraordinarily fine state. We have the mountains, the Piedmont section, and a large section of coastal plain--and then we have the estuary section. We have, in each of these, an abundance, or rather there has been, and now the whole thing is being destroyed through industrial processes."
--Thomas Berry, Lectures in Assisi, 1991.
"We're presently in the terminal Cenozoic and we have to move into a new period, something equivalent to the transition from the Mesozoic to the Cenozoic, or from the Paleozoic to the Mesozoic... So my own thinking has been to go back to a cosmological answer... My own approach is not psychological; it's not sociological; it's not theological or epistemological. My approach is cosmological.
We need a myth, but a myth that speaks out of the scientific tradition, something that is both scientific and mythic, because myth is a part of science; science [itself] has a mythic dimension.
All things have a 'person' aspect, a subjective aspect. The universe is a communion of subjects, not a collection of objects. Everything carries this capacity for presence and rapport in some way... If there is compassion in the universe, it must be a dimension of the universe. All things are a dimension of each other, all things express a dimension of the universe."
--Thomas Berry, Lectures in Assisi, Italy, 1991.
(Edited by Drew Dellinger)
"Racial formation is a specifically modern phenomenon that coincided with the colonial expansion of various western European nation-states—Spain, Portugal, Italy, France, Germany, Holland, Denmark, and England—beginning in the late fifteenth and early sixteenth century. It was an outgrowth of encounters between Europeans and populations that were very different from themselves culturally and, above all, phenotypically as they established colonial empires in the New World, Asia, the Pacific, and, eventually, Africa. More important, racial formation was a catalyst in the creation of and justification for a unique form of slavery. Although expansion, conquest, exploitation, and enslavement had been part of human history for millennia, none of these phenomena were supported by ideologies or social systems based on race."
--G. Reginald Daniel (2004)
As one of the 107,000 people watching on the livestream from the Texas legislature as June 25 turned into June 26, it was one of the most galvanizing things I've seen in three decades of following politics.
If you haven't followed the story, I'll let Google catch you up rather than try to cover everything here, but there are a few things I wanted to mention in relation to astrology.
I don't know exactly when Mercury went retrograde on June 26, (not that it matters exactly) but there were many "Mercury" and "Mercury retrograde" aspects to the whole episode.
First, the emphasis on speech and communication inherent in Senator Davis's 11-hour filibuster, and the intricacies of the Rules of Order, as well as the more "retrograde" aspect of the disputes over "germaneness."
Then there was the dynamic of the GOP senators using the "germaneness" rules (absurdly) to cut off Davis's speech.
Next came the dramatic turning point when Lt. Governor Dewhurst (intentionally?) overlooked the motion from Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, and railroaded the process by instead recognizing the motion from his male GOP colleague to force the vote.
This led to the epochal words that sparked the waves of chanting and disruption from the gallery (the People's Filibuster).
Sen. Leticia Van de Putte: "Point of inquiry."
Lt. Gov. Dewhurst: "State your point of inquiry."
Van de Putte: "At what point must a female senator raise her hand or her voice to be recognized over her male colleagues?"
As many of you saw, these words, coupled with the blatant steamrolling of the process, unleashed the voices from the previously patient and quiet gallery, including chants of "Let her speak!" regarding Davis.
This vocal disruption (a grassroots defense of democracy) was, somewhat miraculously, able to disrupt and delay the (voice?) vote until just after the legislative session expired. The vote was not recorded until 12:03 am on June 26, making it invalid.
The most classic Mercury retrograde aspect of the whole affair was the fact that this was TOTALLY confused and undetermined for about three hours, with no one knowing whether the bill (SB5) had passed or not.
The GOP claimed that the bill was passed, and Lt. Gov. Dewhurst fed this story to the Associated Press (which as you may know has suffered a right-wing takeover in recent years). The AP reported that the bill had passed, as did CNN, I think, while many protested on Twitter that that the vote was too late and that Senators on the floor themselves did not know if the bill had passed or not.
(This seems to me very similar to Richard Tarnas's description of the Mercury retrograde during the indeterminant phase of the 2000 Bush v. Gore election, when we did not know who the president-elect was through all of November and early December.)
The official Texas state legislature website posted the vote with a timestamp of 12:03 am, June 26, (therefore too late.) But nine minutes later, the website suddenly switched to show the vote squeaking in at 11:59 pm, June 25, and therefore, law.
This has yet to be explained. It's quite possible that this chicanery might have worked, if not for the fact that within seconds, folks on twitter were posting screenshots of the original posting, next to the altered one.
I think it's quite possible that the Texas GOP, or their staffers, saw this evidence on Twitter and thought, if we try to push this through, some of us might end up in jail.
At three am, Democratic and GOP senators came out of a private meeting and it was announced that the vote had been too late.
So... it seems to me that the dynamics of Mercury and Mercury retrograde were very strong through all of this. (And more could be mentioned, such as the importance of the Texas Tribune setting up a good livestream, the role of Twitter, the fact that Gov. Perry is forcing a re-do of the special legislative session, and thus the whole thing, perhaps... etc.)
It was a truly powerful moment, one related to the larger outer planetary transits that are bringing waves of awareness and transformation, as well as challenges and struggles, around women's rights, around GLBTQ dignity and equality, and more.
--Drew Dellinger, June 28, 2013.
I was interviewed by Kris Welch of KPFA about Dr. King and our upcoming event this Saturday April 6 in Oakland.
You can listen to the interview here - it's about 5 minutes long.
The Mountaintop Vision: Martin Luther King’s Cosmology of Connection
with Drew Dellinger and Special Guests, Belvie Rooks, Rev. Deborah L. Johnson, Paul Hawken, Rev. Osagyefo Sekou, Louie Schwartzberg and Jennifer Johns
To mark the 45th anniversary of Dr. King’s assassination we will come together to assess his legacy, celebrate his vision, and explore the relevance of his work in our times. We will also examine ecological and cosmological dimensions of King’s vision that have been largely overlooked—until now. You won’t want to miss this one-of-a-kind event!
Join us! (No one turned away for lack of funds.)
Click here for your tickets today! Special offer of 2-for-1 ticket bundle. Bring a guest for free.
(All proceeds support the work of Planetize the Movement and The Mountaintop Vision Project.)
Saturday April 6, 2013, 7:00 p.m. (doors open at 6:00 p.m.)
Location: The Kaiser Center
300 Lakeside Drive, Oakland, California 94612
19th Street BART (exit 20th Street and Broadway and walk 3 blocks towards Lake Merritt).
Parking: Free in the Kaiser Center garage.
Music provided by Oakland’s own DJ Aebldee
"If we are to have peace on earth... we must develop a world perspective.... Yes, as nations and individuals, we are interdependent.... It really boils down to this: that all life is interrelated. We are all caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied into a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. We are made to live together because of the interrelated structure of reality.... This is the way our universe is structured, this is its interrelated quality. We aren’t going to have peace on earth until we recognize this basic fact of the interrelated structure of all reality."
--Martin Luther King Jr., "A Christmas Eve Sermon on Peace," Dec. 24, 1967.
Get tix here for April 6:https://ptm.ticketbud.com/mountaintop
"If I were asked what is the greatest fact that the intellect of man has ever brought to light I should say it was this:
Through all human history, nay, so far as we can discover, from the infancy of time, our solar system--sun, planets, and moons--has been flying through space toward the constellation Lyra with a speed of which we have no example on earth."
--Simon Newcomb, Astronomy for Everybody (1902)
"The artist does not act passively either in regard to the Cosmos or in regard to the unconscious. Without telling us, perhaps without knowing it, the artist penetrates--at times dangerously--into the depths of the world and his own psyche....
The attitude of the artist in regard to the cosmos and to life recalls to a certain extent the ideology implicit in 'cosmic religion.'"
--Mircea Eliade (1965)
"The symbol translates a human situation into cosmological terms; and reciprocally, more precisely, it discloses the interdependence between the structures of human existence and cosmic structures."
--Mircea Eliade (1965)
"It is hard to imagine what human life would be like without oral narrative, for it is chiefly through storytelling that people possess a past. It is through prized stories, often enshrined in a ritual context, that a complex religious dimension is added to life."
--John D. Niles,
"Homo Narrans: The Poetics and Anthropology of Oral Literature" (1999)
You're Invited to Drew Dellinger's Ph.D. Dissertation Defense!
Friday, April 27th, 2-4pm
CIIS -- California Institute of Integral Studies
1453 Mission St., (between 10th & 11th) Room 306
San Francisco, CA
Open to the public! Come early; space is limited.
(This is the abstract for my doctoral dissertation. I am finishing a Ph.D. in Philosophy and Religion, with a concentration in Philosophy, Cosmology, and Consciousness, at CIIS -- the California Institute of Integral Studies.)
The Mountaintop Vision:
Martin Luther King’s Cosmology of Connection
This dissertation asserts that Martin Luther King Jr.’s social justice vision was based on a worldview of interconnection. This work examines cosmological and ecological dimensions of King’s thought that have been largely overlooked in previous King scholarship.
King’s vision connected racism with war and poverty, stressed the unity of peoples and movements around the planet, and recognized the interwoven nature of the universe, which he described as, “the interrelated structure of all reality.” His holistic view of the cosmos and society is the hallmark of what I call his Mountaintop Vision.
In the last years of his life, which I call his Mountaintop Period (1966-68), King identified systemic links between social justice issues that were largely viewed as separate, fusing them into a unified critique that fundamentally challenged the modern system. This work articulates six aspects of King’s Mountaintop Vision: (1) connecting justice to the cosmos, (2) emphasizing economic justice, (3) confronting systemic racism, (4) challenging U. S. militarism, (5) exemplifying the prophetic path, and (6) building a global movement.
King’s worldview constituted a cosmology of justice in which interdependence and compassion are woven into the fabric of the cosmos itself. In King’s view, “the universe is on the side of justice.”
This dissertation examines King’s speeches, sermons, and writings to demonstrate his vision of radical connection. I argue that King’s view of existence as a “network of mutuality,” in which “all life is interrelated,” should be recognized as an early expression of systems thinking and ecological consciousness. King’s Mountaintop Vision linked social justice, cosmology, and ecology in a way that may yet provide guidance for our future.
"A realization of the inter-relationships within an ecosystem is essential for man's continued occupancy on earth. We cannot go on polluting our air or our rivers without affecting all life. We cannot, for example, continue with impunity to increase the carbon dioxide content of the atmosphere at the rate it has been increased over the past fifty years. The consequences of such interference with the biosphere, the world ecosystem, would be disastrous climatic change."
--Raymond F. Dasmann, A Different Kind of Country (1968)
"We see, with deep feeling, that if Man is no longer (as one could formerly conceive him) the immobile centre of an already completed world--on the other hand from now on he tends, in our experience, to represent the very leading shoot of a universe that is in process, simultaneously, of material 'complexification' and psychic interiorisation: both processes continually accelerating.
It is a vision whose impact should strike our minds with such force as to raise to a higher level, or even to revolutionise, our philosophy of existence."
--Teilhard de Chardin (January 10, 1950)
Man's Place in Nature
“A religion is a system of symbols which acts to establish powerful, pervasive and long-lasting moods and motivations in men by formulating conceptions of a general order of existence and clothing them with such an aura of factuality that the moods and motivations seem uniquely realistic.”
--Clifford Geertz, "Religion as a Cultural System" (1965)
"Crompton argues that environmentalists need to do more to challenge the individualistic worldview in their campaign work.... The research coming out of Yale's Cultural Cognition Project...has found that a major determinant of whether a person rejects the scientific consensus on climate change is whether they have a strongly 'hierarchical' or 'individualistic' worldview...78 per cent of subjects who display an 'egalitarian' and 'communitarian' worldview believe that most scientists agree climate change is happening (which is true) - compared with only 19 per cent of those with a 'hierarchical' and 'individualist' worldview.
For me, it follows from this that part of being an effective environmentalist is trying to win more people over to a worldview in line with the laws of physics and chemistry, rather than offering shopping advice and touting 'market-based solutions."
--Naomi Klein (NY Times, December 7, 2011)
Bill Twist, Pia Banerjee, Lynne Twist, John Perkins, Drew Dellinger, Jon Symes.
Here's a photo from the panel that followed the Awakening the Dreamer "Super Symposium." Yesterday's event was the unveiling of the newest version of the Symposium.
In 2003-2004, Drew was a key member of the team that developed and designed the Awakening the Dreamer, Changing the Dream Symposium. The Symposium has now been used in 60 countries, in 14 languages.
"To me, cosmology and empire are antithetical. Empire becomes a cosmology. It's a pseudo-cosmology."
(Nov. 4, 2004. From the journals of Drew Dellinger)
Esalen workshop - Drew Dellinger
Join Drew Dellinger at Esalen in the beautiful area of Big Sur, California for an amazing workshop "Living the New Story: Cosmology, Justice, Poetry, and the Planet". Sept. 23-35, 2011
*NEWSFLASH!: This workshop will include a "surprise" presentation by Drew and the incredible Richard Tarnas, author of The Passion of the Western Mind and Cosmos and Psyche.
For registration and information: http://webapp.esalen.org/workshops/9770
“Instinctively rather than reflectively he had reached the conclusion that the whole universe was for him not object but subject—it was he."
--Romain Rolland, on Walt Whitman, in The Life of Vivekananda (1931)
"Myths grow like crystals, according to their own, recurrent pattern; but there must be a suitable core to start their growth. Mediocrities or cranks have no myth-generating power; they may create a fashion, but it soon peters out."
--Arthur Koestler (1959)
"Jesus Christ was not a white man."
--Martin Luther King Jr.
Scope the stars and contemplate the cosmos. I dare you to watch this and remain unmoved. (Great music too.)
February 11, 2011
MSNBC anchor, Tamron Hall, speaking to Egyptian opposition leader, Moustafa El Gindy, on Egyptian Independence Day:
Tamron Hall: You used the word 'dream.' Did you ever imagine this dream of the leadership being ousted there could actually happen in the hardest days that we've watched?
Moustafa El Gindy: Yes. Yes, I dreamed. Yes, I will keep on dreaming and I will teach my kids to dream. Yes, I was one of not-a-lot of people who still had hope. And I was telling them, 'Believe in your country. Believe in your country.' I will teach my kids to dream. Anybody that I will meet, I will tell them, 'dream.' Dream means you live. Dream is life. And we will dream. We are 5000 years old civilization and we are still dreaming, and we will keep on dreaming. Egypt is a dreamland. Like America is a dreamland, Egypt is a dreamland."
[News Nation with Tamron Hall, MSNBC, Feb. 11, 2011]
It would not be correct to say that a creation myth explains existence, for the function of myth is not to explain, but rather to connect the known and the unknown; to connect our everyday world with the Unfathomable Beyond that initiates, informs, infuses, and enfolds this world.
[See Scheub, The Poem in the Story, p. 184]
The Starry Night (1889)
"First of all the twinkling stars vibrated, but remained motionless is space, then all the celestial globes were united into one series of movements....Firmament and planets both disappeared, but the mighty breath which gives life to all things and in which all is bound up remained."
--Vincent Van Gough
Check out my new article in Tikkun magazine, "Five Lessons from Martin Luther King Jr. and the Civil Rights Movement."
We need to act logically. And mythologically.
wow. if you take a nap on the shortest day of the year then it becomes even shorter.
i think the stars are waiting for something to happen.
"We were made for the stars."
--Martin Luther King Jr. (1966)
Thomas Berry at Prescott College (Feb. 14, 1992):
"I have been deeply interested in the small American college for some time, and for the last 10-15 years I've been saying that...the small college that declares itself to place its teaching within the comprehensive story of the universe and within the dynamics of the natural life systems of the planet Earth, would have a significant future.
I am proposing Prescott College as the first Ecozoic college known to the human community.
I have a feeling about Prescott College....The future belongs, in every profession, to those who are integral with the natural world, particularly, I think, education.
What I suggest to small colleges is that they work out their program, articulate their identity, and write up the thing, and then take out a full-page ad in The New York Times: 'Prescott College is based on the story of the universe and the survival of the planet Earth...and is the best possible preparation for all professions,'
The universe, throughout its vast extent in space, and its long sequence of transformations in time, is a single, multiform celebratory event. So the key issue at Prescott College has to be celebration. Celebration is the key to the future. It's the key to human energies. You can't have energies if you don't celebrate. Prescott College should be a place that celebrates the universe, that celebrates the deep mystery of things, in a meaningful way. And that is what education is. It's knowing how to enter creatively in celebration. It's knowing the universe, and knowing how to celebrate because we know the Great Celebration.
...What we need to do is to move into the future as a group, as a community, as the community of Prescott College. No one of us can do very much without everybody else."
--Thomas Berry at Prescott College,
February 14, 1992
(from the notebooks of Drew Dellinger)
"We have built...instruments that peer into the unfathomable ranges of interstellar space....But in spite of this something basic is missing. In spite of all our scientific and technological progress we suffer from a kind of poverty of the spirit."
--Martin Luther King Jr., "Sense of Priorities," Feb. 6, 1968, Washington, DC
love is the substance of the soul. soul is the substance of the universe.
come into the consciousness of clouds. enter the frequency of the flickering flame.
We need stories that can reconcile us to our history. Stories that show how the past lives in the present are necessary for freeing the future.
"The historical and the cosmic can be seen as a single process."
"Mythological thinking is striving for a total world view.'
OK, this is becoming one of my pet peeves.
I've been in conversations about the ecological situation, and the fate of the planet, at least since I started college 20 years ago. And I can't tell you how many times I've heard someone say something like this:
"You know, the Earth will be fine; It's humans who will be extinct."
Or "The planet will survive just fine, it's just that humans won't be around." Or something like this.
I'm sure I must have heard this 45 times or more. In fact, I think I've even said it myself. Year after year, it keeps getting repeated as if it's a clever, insightful, or accurate rejoinder.
But it's not.
Just last Saturday night I heard it said by a noted environmental thinker, Stewart Brand. Brand is the visionary who created The Whole Earth Catalog and called for a photograph of Earth from space. Brand is also a bit of a contrarian. He's not afraid to advocate a controversial idea, such as nuclear power or GMOs. But even knowing the contrarian side of Brand, I was stunned to hear him repeat the old canard about how 'the Earth will be fine..."
Here's the context:
This was a panel of ecological folks that followed a screening of an excellent new documentary, "Climate Refugees." Brand and others were discussing the immense threat that climate change poses to humanity and civilization. This is, of course, a clear and compelling point that we all need to understand. But to my mind, Brand stretched the point too far when he implied that the only threat or primary threat was to civilization. Specifically he said "Life will be fine." And later, "The planet's OK."
This was more than enough to send my pet peeve sensors into high alert.
But it doesn't matter who's recycling this golden oldie, because whether it's an environmental legend, your earnest college roommate, or an annoying co-worker, here's why it's totally wrong.
"The historical mission of our times is to reinvent the human--at the species level, with critical reflection, within the community of life-systems, in a time-developmental context, by means of story and shared dream experience."
--Thomas Berry, who passed one year ago today.
"It really boils down to this: that all life is interrelated. We are all caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied into a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. We are made to live together because of the interrelated structure of reality."
--Martin Luther King Jr. (Dec. 24, 1967)
"The earth community is a wilderness community that will not be bargained with; nor will it simply be studied or examined or made an object of any kind; nor will it be domesticated or trivialized as a setting for vacation indulgence, except under duress and by oppressions which it cannot escape. When this does take place in an abusive way, a vengenace awaits the human, for when the other living species are violated so extensively, the human itself is imperiled."
--THOMAS BERRY (The Dream of the Earth, p. 2)
Photo: Bret Webster
Martin Luther King Jr.:
Along with the scientific and technological revolution, we have also witnessed a world-wide freedom revolution over the last few decades….In one sense the civil rights movement in the United States is a special American phenomenon which must be understood in the light of American history and dealt with in terms of the American situation. But on another and more important level, what is happening in the United States today is a significant part of world development.
We live in a day, said the philosopher Alfred North Whitehead, “when civilization is shifting its basic outlook; a major turning point in history where the presuppositions on which society is structured are being analyzed, sharply challenged, and profoundly changed.” What we are seeing now is a freedom explosion, the realization of “an idea whose time has come,” to use Victor Hugo’s phrase. The deep rumbling of discontent that we hear today is the thunder of disinherited masses….All over the world like a fever, freedom is spreading in the widest liberation movement in history. The great masses of people are determined to end the exploitation of their races and lands. They are awake and moving toward their goal like a tidal wave….For several centuries the direction of history flowed from the nations and societies of Western Europe out into the rest of the world in “conquests” of various sorts. That period, the era of colonialism, is at an end. East is moving West. The earth is being redistributed. Yes, we are “shifting our basic outlooks.”
--Martin Luther King Jr.
"Chapter V: Where Are We Going," pp.169-70, from Where Do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community, (1967)
Here's a quote someone sent me recently, from a talk I gave at Esalen in October.
"To look at the worldview that has brought us to the current planetary moment, we have to look at racism, systemic racism, as well as misogyny and patriarchy, classism, militarism. But I think we really have to take a long, hard look at systemic racism in order to understand the worldview that we're in right now, and the transformations that are happening. So I think that looking at a wider range of voices and looking at the history of genocide and oppression and slavery and segregation and the struggles of resistance against that, to build liberty, compassion and justice, is integral to the work of [the] Philosophy, Cosmology and Consciousness department...."
Oct. 26, 2009 - presentation with Richard Tarnas on "Martin Luther King Jr.: Life and Transits." Esalen Institute, Big Sur, CA.
I think it is true, as someone said recently, that as brilliant as Obama is as a communicator, the administration has too often lost control of the narrative in this first year, or ceded control of the narrative to others.
It's been distressing to see the most lunatic narratives gaining power in these fearful and anxious and economically desparate times. And to see the right wing's rabid sway over the corporate mainstream media. Right-wing fearmongers have had far too much control of the narrative, from health care, to climate change, to Van Jones, to ACORN, and on down the line. All to the detriment of our discourse and democracy.
The concluding paragraph to this piece by Robert Reich illustrates the president's struggle to sculpt the story:
"But our President is not comfortable wielding blame. He will not give the public the larger narrative of private-sector greed, its nefarious effect on the American public at this dangerous juncture, and the private sector's corruption of the democratic process. He has so far eschewed any major plan to get corporate and Wall Street money out of politics. He can be indignant- as when he lashed out at the "fat cats" on Wall Street - but his indignance is fleeting, and it is no match for the faux indignance of the right that blames government for all that ails us."
Obama, following his often noble, sometimes futile, instinct toward reconcilliation, has thus far failed to craft a compelling narrative with the emotional, rhetorical and spiritual power that animated the campaign and electrified the world.
The success of his policies and his presidency, as well as the hopes of so many struggling people, depend on Obama's ability to wield the power story and activate a narrative that will motivate the nation.
If we could speed up time we’d see that the universe is an insane flashing blossom; a fireworks burst of light-stars-galaxies-planets-oceans-life-awareness, in the blink of an eye, like a deity winking.
A friend recently emailed me asking for a simple definition of "cosmology." Below is my reply.
It's not always easy to find a simple definition of cosmology that covers it fully, so when I present, I generally throw out a flurry along these lines (and some of these definitions are influenced by the ones used by Brian Swimme and Miriam MacGillis over the years):
Most simply, "cosmology" is the study of the cosmos. (Or the study of the universe.)
In terms of modern science, "cosmology" is the study of the origin and development of the universe as a whole ("in its totality" also works, and avoids any confusion that could arise from the fact that "whole" and "hole" are homonyms.)
Swimme would add this: "Cosmology" is the study of the origin and development of the universe in its totality, and the role of the human in the universe. Science would tend to ignore that last part about "the role of the human in the universe." To a 'new cosmologist' like Swimme, that dimension is crucial.
But the scientific study of the origin and development of the universe (the "Big Bang" theory; the study of the galaxies, and the large-scale structure of the cosmos; astronomy and astrophysics) is only half of a full definition of "cosmology."
"Cosmology" is also a worldview or 'cultural story.' (A paradigm or "cosmo-vision")
To capture this sense, I say, "cosmology" is the story that a culture tells itself about how the world came to be, and how we fit into it.
So I think that a complete definition of "cosmology" (even a simple one) should include these two major aspects: the 'scientific' and the 'cultural'. "Cosmology" is both 'scientific study' and 'cultural story.'
So to reiterate,
"Cosmology" is the study of the origin and development of the universe as a whole, and the role of the human in the universe. It is also the story that a culture tells itself about how the world came to be, and how we fit into it.
(One last wrinkle is that the mainstream definition of "cosmology" and particularly "cosmologist" leans toward the 'scientific study' part, so almost any time you hear the word "cosmologist," it would be in reference to a physicist, astronomer, astrophysicist, scientist, etc. The 'cultural story' aspect of "cosmology" is less understood, though that is changing.)
Hope this is helpful,
"If we are to have peace on earth…we must develop a world perspective."
--Martin Luther King Jr., December 24, 1967
"Oh, my God! Look at that picture over there! Here's the earth coming up. Wow, is that pretty!"
--Commander Frank Borman, Apollo 8, December 24, 1968
Forty years ago, on Christmas Eve 1968, an astronaut orbiting the moon took a photograph that changed the world. As we near the end of the 40th anniversary of one of the most heart-breaking years in our history, it is worth remembering that the year of trauma ended in triumph.
As '68 dawned, the Tet offensive dispelled illusions of easy victory in Vietnam. Later that spring, in the early evening of April 4, one of the world's most visible and visionary activists for justice was shot down in Memphis, triggering waves of outrage and sadness, as more than 100 cities burst into flames of despair and rebellion. Two months later, Bobby Kennedy was shot and killed in Los Angeles.
Throughout '68, student protests and general uprisings broke out in Europe, the Americas, and elsewhere. In Mexico City, the Summer Olympics set the stage for the raised-fist defiance of John Carlos and Tommie Smith. In August, police and demonstrators clashed violently at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago.
This was the troubled world that the crew of Apollo 8 left behind in December, as they became the first humans to journey around the moon. Just as it seemed the world was falling apart, the astronauts on Apollo 8 took a photograph that would bring us all together, and forever change our image of the planet and ourselves.
Thomas Berry at the Temple of Minerva, Assisi, Italy, 1991
Thomas Berry at the Temple of Minerva, Assisi, Italy, 1991 (Photo: Drew Dellinger)
The Center for Ecozoic Studies has published a special issue of their journal, "The Ecozoic," focused on Thomas Berry, the influential environmental writer and thinker. Over 150 of Berry's friends, students, and appreciators contributed reflections on Thomas and his work, including noted activist Joanna Macy and Nobel Laureate Wangari Maathai.
I was grateful to be able to contribute the following piece, "Travels with Thomas Berry," in honor of Father Thomas and his immensely significant work and profound cosmological vision.
Travels with Thomas Berry
By Drew Dellinger
Thomas Berry can shift your worldview with a single sentence.
For example, imagine that one minute you are just a simple person, thinking simple thoughts, and then the next minute you hear Tom Berry say: "The universe--throughout its vast extent in space, and its long sequence of transformations in time--is a single, multiform, celebratory event." And furthermore, Berry says, you, as a human, "are that being in whom the universe reflects on and celebrates itself."
(Say what? The universe is a celebration . . . and I am the universe thinking about itself?)
Tom Berry -- Greensboro, North Carolina
Tom Berry -- Greensboro, North Carolina (Photo: Drew Dellinger)
This weekend, the Sophia Center in Oakland, CA, hosted a wonderful conference called "Thomas Berry and the New Cosmology," honoring and exploring the work of Father Thomas.
Brian Swimme opened the gathering with a great talk, chronicling his personal journey with Tom and elucidating the remarkable experience of being in the presence of a sage. One of the signs of a sage, said Brian, is that, in their company, you recognize who you are. They awaken in you a fuller, deeper sense of self.
Swimme told a story of eating at Thomas' favorite spot, the Broadway Diner in the Bronx. As the waitress refilled their coffee cups and walked away, Thomas said to Brian, 'There's no way you can repay her for that act. That isn't a monetary transaction. That's an infinite act of kindness. She has just poured her life into our lives.' Like Dante, perceiving the Divine in the person of Beatrice, Thomas Berry had the ability to see the infinity in an ordinary instant.