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July 1, 2011
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Reviewed by Mitchell Thomashow
HERE’S AN EQUATION for knowing where you are: Cosmology + Bioregionalism = Sense of Place.
The deepest mysteries of the place where you live are linked to the origins of life on Earth and, then, the origins of the universe. Mary Evelyn Tucker and Brian Swimme propose that cosmology is necessarily the basis of our planetary condition. Such awareness is a daunting perceptual challenge, rarely taught in school and unlikely to be the subject of your daily conversations. Yet, ultimately, one cannot grasp the profound dilemmas of species extinction and climate change without a cosmological orientation.
What’s most striking about Swimme and Tucker’s work is a simple but beautiful assumption: a cosmological orientation opens the human mind to wonder, gratitude, humility, and creativity. Further, they propose that science and the humanities—together—are the convergent voices of that opening. The origins of the universe and the unfolding of humanity reflect the grandest narrative, a “universe story.” The telling of that story is empowering, inspiring, and provides the preconditions of human adaptation and survival. No dire warnings here; rather, we bask in the glow of what humans are capable of conceiving.
“Our human destiny is to become the heart of the universe that embraces the whole of the Earth community,” write the authors. “We are just a speck in the universe, but we are beings with the capacity to feel comprehensive compassion in the midst of an ocean of intimacy. That is the direction of our becoming more fully human.”
Journey of the Universe is a stand-alone supplement to an exciting project, including a spectacular film of the same name, curricular suggestions, and a brilliant group of advisors that includes scientists, philosophers, and representatives of the arts and humanities. The book remains true to its task of telling a wonderful story and writing it well. It can and should be simultaneously scanned and savored. However, to gain the greatest learning, read it as a supplement to the film. Then share it widely.