Tuesday, April 19, 2011

The New Universe and The Human Future

Balder started an IPS thread on this book by Ellen Abrams and Joel Primack. He kicks off the thread with a review by Matthew Fox, who says:

"I have often said that the most important things in life are metaphors, whether we are speaking of life or death, spirit or sex, love or body. And the universe too is metaphor and accessible by metaphor. All the prophets knew these things. Metaphor carries us on wings larger than despair, self-pity, talk of 'selfish genes,' and pessimism — all of which is so often a cover-up and escape from responsibility.

"Here is one metaphor that they put forth for our understanding:

Imagine that the entire universe is an ocean of dark energy. On that ocean there sail billions of ghostly ships, made of dark matter. At the tips of the tallest masts of the largest ships there are tiny beacons of light, which we call galaxies. With Hubble Space Telescope, the beacons are all we see. We don't see the ships, we don't see the ocean — but we know they're there through the Double Dark theory.
"As a theologian, I hear this as a clarion call to rediscover the apophatic Divinity, the God of Darkness, the pathway of letting go and letting be, the God who "has no name and will never be given a name" (Eckhart), where the alpha (beginning) and omega (ending) are both bathed in mystery and in darkness — a double darkness, we might say. It's a call for a transcendence that is not "up" so much as deep down, into the depths of things where all is dark, and all is silent and beyond naming, but where creation and new birth gestate in the invisibility of the cosmic womb, where all that dark sea and dark energy and dark matter dwells and even dark ships sail. A call to silence. A call to depth; a call to divine Nothingness. No-thingness. Only relations. Some micro, some macro. How amazing that we have the minds to study them! How grateful we all should be.

"This is a book on ethics, a book about renewing our foundation for ethics. The authors talk passionately about the folly of our race as we face our own potential extinction and the extinction of this marvelous planet as we know it. They see our uniqueness not just in terms of this planet but also in terms of what we know about the universe. They urge us to 'crack open our imaginations' and to wake up to the 'accident' of our being 'born at the turning point.' And what turning point is that? It goes back to the fact of the rediscovery of how unique we are as a species: 'It took a series of outrageously improbable events on Earth, plus multiple cosmic catastrophes to earlier species like the dinosaurs before humans could evolve.… Our level of intelligence (and higher) may be extremely rare' in the universe.

"We must move beyond the inflationary period of economics, of judging things by growth of GNP. We have to realize that spiritual relationships can grow continuously — but economic ones can't. Joel and Nancy write:
Our drive for meaning, spiritual connection, personal and artistic expression, and cultural growth can be unlimited … if we valued them above consumer goods, then we would have a new paradigm for human progress. For our universe the most creative period, which brought forth galaxies, stars, atoms, planets, and life, came after inflation ended, and this could also be true for humanity. A stable period can last as long as human creativity stays ahead of our physical impact on the earth.
"If this isn't a call for a simpler lifestyle I don't know what is. What is right action? 'The goal should be sustainable prosperity, which is perfectly defined by the Zen saying 'enough is a feast.'"

1 comment:

  1. I replied:

    I appreciate some of the ideas in the review above. For example, a (re)turn to an apophatic spirituality where divinity is not named, where beginning and end are bathed is a dark, deep sea of no thing ness much like khora. Also the idea that both beginning and end, held in this mysterious and unknowable awe, require is to work from the middle in both directions, akin to what I've been exploring about image schemas as being the middle of any hierarchy. Which is again related to khora an an-arche and the likes of Caputo's weak theology. And finally that we need to know that enough is a feast, to leave the consumerism and capitalistic way of life, to (re)turn to a much simpler material lifestyle with more time and energy devoted to depth, to humanitarian concern, to spiritual enlightenment, if you will.


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