irreversible transformations until we arrived where we are here and now—writing a story about our journey.
It took awhile, but that’s how far we’ve come. We essentially burst forth as light and after changing a bit, we arrived as a living system together with our fellow travellers on a small blue planet in a dark sea of space. As a result of these transformations, we can now contemplate that flaring forth 13.7 billion years later. We are energy transformed… contemplating the first energy that flared forth.
Let’s pause for a moment and let that sink in.
Thomas Berry and Brian Swimme, in The Universe Story, call our understanding of this epic a “new cosmology” or "the New Story."
Stories are about meaning and connection…They help us understand things, they help us connect to one another, they help us connect to Earth when we realize that we are a part of the planetary story.
This year, I had the opportunity to chat with poet and activist Drew Dellinger about The New Story and how it has influenced his own work. This is what Drew shared:
"One of the biggest moments was my encounter with the work and the writings of Thomas Berry when I was just starting college--Prescott college in Arizona in 1990 and just before that a friend of mine, Steve Snyder had found Thomas Berry’s book, The Dream of the Earth, and we were like, “Oh my God. This is amazing.”
"The back story is that we had been in a multiyear process of trying to find meaning in the middle of a corporate capitalist society while going to a public high school in North Carolina. There was not a lot of creativity, spirituality or intellectual stimulation. They’re great folks but not a lot of folks asking that question about what is important, and what is the big why, what is the deeper meaning.
And so, when we read Brian Swimme and Thomas Berry’s book, “The Universe is a Green Dragon”, they were saying we need to have a new approach to the Universe. I had never been interested in Science-- like space and stars. I thought they were kind of cool but I was never galvanized by the sciences --but all of a sudden Thomas Berry is saying, “We have a new comprehensive understanding of the Universe itself.”
I never heard anybody writing about the Universe itself. The cosmos is a new context for education. What? Well, this is wild. We need to understand ourselves as the embodied expression of the Universe. As the Taoist would say, the ten thousand things, it’s the one Tao. It’s the one energy. The Universe is a seamless, unfolding energy that is both spiritual and psychic and physical and material from the very beginning. Richard Dunn would say, “The spiritual and the material are interwoven, matter, spiritualizes.” Matter has spirit at its heart. Matter is not just matter but spirit in motion, these types of things so I’m assuming you’re going like, wow this little brief encounter with some of these essays is really shifting my world view making me think about the planet in a new way. Very simple things, very subtle shifts, that’s scientific in a certain way but just with a new twist and new perspectives.
So reading Thomas Berry and then later coming to study with him…he’s saying, “We are the earth, we are the Universe,” and when a whale sings an incredibly complex song, that’s the earth that composed the song. When a bird flies, the earth is flying and when humans write poetry, when humans commune with each other, when humans celebrate that’s Earth celebrating.
And so, when you talk about the big why that comes in from Berry’s thinking. He would say, “That’s what we’re here for. We’re here to celebrate. We are the space in which the Universe reflects on and celebrate itself.”
So, all of a sudden I had something that made sense. That made sense to me, capitalism, consumerism, advertising, that didn’t make much sense. War, racism, sexism, economic exploitation… that didn’t make sense. Working at an occupation that one feels is grinding one soul down on a daily basis and doing that for 50 years and then retiring, that didn’t make much sense, but the humanist, the space in which the Universe itself can celebrate and reflect on itself -- now that made sense.