What is Gaia Theory? What Does It Have To Do With FALL OF THE TITANS in Cambridge?

This coming Sunday January 22nd at 5:30 pm I’ll return to Grendel’s Den in Cambridge, MA to tell Fall of the Titans: The Original Game of Thrones, an ancient Greek myth. The 90-minute show, told with narration, character voices and a score on 12-string guitar, is prefaced, believe it or not, with modern science, Gaia Theory in particular. Gaia Theory isn’t a belief, it’s a bundle of sciences. Biology. Chemistry. Physics. Ecology. Plate tectonics. Climatology. Paleo-geology. Vulcanology. Glaciology. On and on. It combines these and other disciplines into the grand notion that Earth is a giant, self-regulating organism, creating and sloughing off complex life forms for many hundreds of millions of years.

Pangea (“all-Earth”) is the name scientists have given the ancient super-landmass that fused the continents 300 million years ago but which drifted apart into what we’ve got today. In certain places, rock layers along the west coast of Africa are identical to rock layers along the east coast of South America, after all. Now the Atlantic Ocean separates them, but at one point they were in the same spot on Pangea. Continents drift about an inch a year.

So what’s the link to my storyteller’s version of Hesiod’s Theogony, a poem from 700 B.C. about the ancient Greek gods we see in the movies all the time? The link is paleo-seas, the waters that surrounded Pangea’s break-up. Scientists have given them names. The Tethys Sea. The Iapetus Ocean. The Pontus Ocean. The Rheic Ocean. Where did these strange names come from?

Well, the scientists who named them were obviously familiar with Hesiod’s creation myth, because Tethys, Iapetus, Pontus and Rhea were Titans, children of Gaia, the Earth itself, all of whom are characters in the Theogony (“birth of the gods”). Think of them as the Earth-Makers. The Bronze Age Greeks looked around and saw mountains, sky and seas and had no idea where they’d come from, so they dreamt up a Titan who created each one of them. Tethys, a Titaness, created the streams and rivers. Pontus created the sea. Iapetus created death to make room for new life. Rhea was the mother of the Olympian gods––Zeus, Hera, Hades, Demeter and so on. They were all part of a family that tore itself apart because of imperfection.

At least that’s the story.

So learning about ancient seas made me curious about the names, the names led me to the story, and now Fall of the Titans is a full-blown performance piece. It’s lots of fun with some pretty cosmic music on 12-string guitar and voices for Gaia, Ouranus, Cronus, Rhea, baby cyclopses, Zeus and others. It is an adult story and is definitely not recommended for children.

I’ll have my Celtic harp to help introduce the science part.

Tickets are $15 for tables and $10 bar seating. I hope to see you there!

StoryEarth: Naturalist Martin Ogle and Odds Bodkin Live

When our kids ask about life’s origins, what do we tell them? What do we tell ourselves?

 

Few peoples or tribes on Earth have lived without an origin story. The Algonquin Native Americans believed that North America was created on the back of a giant turtle in the sea with some magic cloud soil. Many people in our own country believe that God created the Earth in six days, about 6,400 years ago, and that men walked with dinosaurs. Meanwhile the ancient Greek poet Hesiod was of the opinion that the first being was a Titan named Gaia who abruptly appeared and with her 12 Titan children set about creating the stars, the moon, day and night and all the other features of Nature.

 
Since ancient times, humankind has come a long way. With science and technology we’ve evolved immense new eyes and ears such as telescopes and seismographs. No longer do we think Thor in Asgard is hurling thunderbolts during thunderstorms because we understand electricity and use it every day. When a hurricane slams us we don’t think a sea god is angry; no, we can see the tropical depression swirling toward our coasts from our satellites. When volcanic pressures build toward an eruption, micro-quakes swarm across our seismographs to warn us of the danger. We can even listen with radio telescopes to the throbbings of deep space. Still, despite all this science, if we forget the mysteries and needs of the human spirit––and that means a story folks can understand that squares our faith with what we’re seeing around us––we may neglect what needs to be done to sustain life on Earth. We’ve been doing that for quite some time. Maybe all we need to do is update our old stories with some solid science. Sacred Stories 2.0.

 
Up until now, we’ve been looking up at the mysterium tremendum––the “tremendous mystery” in which we live––but for the first time ever, we humans can look down upon our planet. You can now go online and see all the winds circulating around the Earth, or the ones that were doing so about an hour ago, since it takes that long to update the Earth Wind Map software. It’s pretty close to real time. You can see the coastal storms, the typhoons, the giant circulations of wind around Antarctica, how breezy it is in your neighborhood, all of them updated from sensors floating at sea and the work of land-based weather watchers. Tell me I’m crazy but looking at this makes me feel religious. It gives me a sense of my planet in a way the ancients could not perceive. NASA has done the same beautiful thing with ocean currents, the drivers of climate. Whether you think humans are causing global warming or not, at least here before your eyes is the vast convection mechanism that is, for whatever reasons, heating up like a pot of boiling water.

 
On November 9th, 2016 at 7:00 pm I’ll be onstage at the University of Colorado’s Sustainability, Energy and Environment Complex in Boulder with a dear friend, Martin Ogle. Using some storytelling on my part and some science on his, we’re going to explore whether we humans need to update our basic story about the mysterium tremendum. And how we might do that.

 
The show is called StoryEarth and info and tickets are available here. We hope you’ll join us for a fun show and a fascinating discussion, you included!

 

StoryEarth is sponsored by PEN, the Parent Education Network and Entrepreneurial Earth.

 

Odds Bodkin