Who are we? (thinking w/ Berry and Swimme)

‘Who are we’? Always a good question to ask. Ecologically speaking, this might be the most important question humanity can ask: ‘How wide does the we reach?’

Thomas Berry and Brian Swimme point to the stars, but their point is not that scientific abstractions explain human life down here on earth. Their point, as I understand it, is just that the Earth and the entire cosmos is a community of subjects. The ‘we’ extends all the way to the edge of the galactic supercluster and beyond. Spiritual bypassing? Perhaps, especially if ‘the star-reaching we’ or cosmic consciousness forgets to tend to the suffering and impoverishment in the more local here and now. But maybe we are always at risk of spiritual bypassing, whether we are buried underground colliding atomic nuclei or swimming naked in an alpine lake or self-immolating in protest of the American oil economy. Berry wasn’t escapist or avoidant of the need to inhabit a place. He seemed well aware of the ultimate value of particular places (see e.g., his essay in The Great Work “The Meadow Across the Creek”).  

Is the Universe Alive?

In this episode of the “Through the Wormhole” series put together by Discovery Channel, Morgan Freeman asks, “Is the Universe Alive?” He builds on the ideas of a motley crew of scientists in order to learn to see life at multiple scales, including the computer scientists Juergen Schmidhuber (machines are alive) and Seth Lloyd (atoms think), the theoretical physicists Stephon Alexander (the universe has a heart beat) and Lee Smolin (black holes allow for cosmological natural selection), the particle physicist at the Sante Fe Institute Geoffrey West (cities are alive), and the physician Robert Lanza (the universe is imaginary).

An interesting set of ideas. I only had trouble with Lanza’s strangely titled (“biocentrism”?) idealistic solipsism.