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.