Monday, July 18, 2011

A Green Dragon

"To every thing there is a season," wrote Ecclesiastes. But what I hadn't realised until this week was that these seasons apply to the minutia of life every bit as much as to the broad picture.
A time to be born and a time to die . . . ? Undoubtedly. But a time to read a book . . . ?

Fifteen years ago I was given "The Universe is a Green Dragon" by Brian Swimme. Somehow, it became delegated to a place on the book shelf where it has sat ever since, forgotten and unread.
Last week, hearing unexpected mention of the title, I was reminded of the gift . . . and went in search.

Where cosmology is concerned, it has taken time for my personal peck of stardust to shine with anything resembling comprehension. But, spurred on by the recent BBC television series on the formation of the Universe, the time for this discarded book had arrived. As Ecclesiastes would say, this was its season.
I took it down from the shelf . . . started to read . . . and was fired with an upsurge of excitement. An excitement which, if you don't mind, I've every intention of sharing with you.

Do you view the subject of evolution as I did, something to be viewed in historical terms? In my mind, whilst fully accepting that we all come from stardust, I also looked upon this topic as history. After all, the Big Bang took place billions of years ago.
What this book has achieved is to open my eyes to the realisation that the story of evolution isn't something to be relegated to the past. Whilst guided by the past, it is continuing in the present, it is shaping the future . . . it is happening now.

Writing as a mathematical cosmologist, Brian Swimme describes how the human race evolved as an integral part of the living body of the Universe. A body which, for billions of years, had been unaware of itself, unable to comprehend the miracle of its own divine being.
With the evolution of mankind the Universe finally provided itself with the gift of self-reflection, the power to recognise its own consciousness.
With our arrival it gained the ability to wonder, to marvel, to cogitate, to be absorbed in awe, and to experience the cathartic joy of laughter.
We were the mirror within which the Universe could finally recognise its own beauty . . . its own magnificence.

Just consider for a moment what this means in personal terms. Your small toe can't think for itself, it's your mind that performs this function on the toe's behalf. Your hand can't consume the food it handles, eating is the function of the mouth and the digestive system. In Universal terms, you and I, through our self-awareness, give a mind to the mountains, a heart to the oceans, and a song to the stars.

Nor is this all, with recent developments in technology and physics, we, as a living Universe, can for the first time understand the history of our own development and the amazing way we function. Only in the past few decades have we been able to recognise that the same atoms, our atoms, constitute a snowdrops or a meteor, a butterfly or a poet. With this leap forward we have become no less than the Universe reflecting upon its own incredible design.

As if all that isn't amazing enough, Brian Swimme demonstrates how the various components of our Universe integrate and support each other - how we are prevented from flying apart and losing coherence. Science has given this quality many names, amongst them are 'gravity', 'attraction' and 'cosmic allurement' . . . to humans it is known as 'love'.

I've only touched on a few facets of this thought-provoking book, but, to finish, let me repeat something that I said at the beginning.
Divine inspiration fired the Big Bang and we are still evolving. We have never stopped evolving. But our future is unknown.
What will we evolve into . . . ? What will this Universe become . . . ?
That is up to the conscious mind of the Universe . . . in other words, it is up to us.

It took fifteen years for me to rediscover the 'green dragon' on my bookshelf. For the sake of our Universal future, may I recommend that you read it now?

Tell me, have you ever wanted to leap up crying "Eureka!"? That's just how I feel at the moment. Let me explain.
What, asks Brian Swimme, holds the Universe together? What maintains form? What holds the stars in their configuration and prevents them scattering out into space?
In human beings, he argues, this cohesion is illustrated by the need to share.
Surely this letter is a clear demonstration of the Universal need for unity? In reaching out to each other with words, you and I are collaborating with gravity, attraction and cosmic allurement . . . we are one with the binding, unifying power of love.