–by Thomas Berry (Sep 29, 2017)
Our destiny can be understood only in the context of the Great Story of the universe. All peoples derive their understanding of themselves from their account of how the universe originally came into being, how it came to be as it is, and the role of the human in the story. We in our Euro-American traditions have in recent centuries, through our observational studies, created a new story of the universe. The difficulty is that this story was presented in the context of the mechanistic way of thinking about the world and so has been devoid of meaning. Supposedly, everything has happened in a random, meaningless process.
It is little wonder, then, that we have lost our Great Story. Our earlier Genesis story long ago lost its power over our historical cultural development. Our new scientific story has never carried any depth of meaning. We have lost our reverence for the universe and the entire range of natural phenomena.
Our scientific story of the universe has no connection with the natural world as we experience it in the wind and the rain and the clouds, in the birds, the animals, and the insects we observe around us. For the first time in all of human history the Sun and Moon and stars, the fields and mountains and streams and woodlands fail to evoke a sense of reverence before the deep mystery of things. These wondrous components of the natural world are somehow not seen with any depth of appreciation. Perhaps that is why our presence has become so deadly.
But now all this is suddenly being altered. Shocked by the devastation we have caused, we are awakening to the wonder of a universe never before seen in quite the same manner. No one ever before could tell in such lyric language as we can now the story of the primordial flaring forth of the universe at the beginning, the shaping of the immense number of stars gathered into galaxies, the collapse of the first generation of stars to create the ninety-some elements, the gravitational gathering of scattered stardust into our solar system with its nine planets, the formation of the Earth with its seas and atmosphere and the continents crashing and rifting as they move over the asthenosphere, and the awakening of life.
Such a marvel is this ~13.7 billion year process; such infinite numbers of stars in the heavens and living beings on Earth, such limitless variety of flowering species and forms of animal life, such tropical luxuriance, such magnificent scenery in the mountains, and such springtime wonders as occur each year. Now we are experiencing the pathos of witnessing the desecration of this sublimity.
We now need to tell this story, meditate on it, and listen to it as it is told by every breeze that blows, by every cloud in the sky, by every mountain and river and woodland, and by the song of every cricket. We have lost contact with our story. Yet we can come together, all the peoples of Earth and all the various members of the great Earth community, only in this Great Story, the story of the universe. For there is no human community without the human community story, no Earth community without the Earth story, and no universe community without the universe story. These three constitute the Great Story. Without it the various forces of the planet become mutually destructive rather than mutually coherent.
We need to listen to one another’s way of telling the Great Story. But first we in the West, with our newly developed capacity to observe the universe through our vast telescopes and to hear its sounds as these come to us from the beginning of time and over some billions of years, need really to listen as our own special way of understanding and participating in the Great Story.
Whenever we forget our story we became confused. But the winds and the rivers and the mountains never become confused. We must go to them constantly to be reminded of it, for every being in the universe is what it is only through its participation in the story. We are resensitized whenever we listen to what they are telling us. Long ago they told us that we must be guided by a reverence and a restraint in our relations with the larger community of life, that we must respect the powers of the surrounding universe, that only through a sensitive insertion of ourselves into the great celebration of the Earth community can we expect the support of the Earth community. If we violate the integrity of this community, we will die.