I mean besides genealogy, ethnicity, culture, or nation. Farther back I mean…way back…all the way back to the beginning of space and time.
If we don’t know where we come from, warned author Terry Pratchett, then we don’t know where we are, and if we don’t know where we are, we don’t know where we’re going.
A quick glance at the current state of the world tells me we haven’t a clue.
The phrase ‘hark back’ was used in hunting to describe the act of returning along a path to recover a lost scent. I like to imagine what the world would be like if our “once-upon-a-time” stories harkened back 13 Billion years to the moment of the Big Bang.
Might we recover our lost scent?
Would a visceral understanding that we’re all stardust feeding off starlight help us develop a universal sense of kinship with all forms of life?
Might knowing we only arrived on stage but a few seconds ago in cosmic time deflate our human hubris?
Would we properly humble and then be rapt by awe and wonder if we allowed the fact to sink-in that there are more stars than grains of sand on all the beaches on Earth?
Would our anxious, plundering rapacity cease if everyone knew that our planet is a living organism that creates and sustains life and that our species was doing just fine as nomadic hunter-gatherers for 99% of the time we’ve been on stage?
If we worked on harmonizing with the fundamental laws written 13 Billion years ago instead of trying to force the Universe to conform to our designs, might we not usher-in a golden age?
If we understood, for instance, that the heat and light of stars is only possible by the implacable resistance imposed on their desire for exuberant expression by the force of Gravity, would we continue cursing when encountering resistance to ours?
Death would not seem like an unfounded rumor if we knew it was woven in the cosmic fabric with the thread of entropy from day-one. No longer, then, would outrage or dismay be our default reactions to decay and disorder, but calm acceptance and mature resignation.
“All religions, nearly all philosophies, and even part of science testify to the unwearing effort of mankind desperately denying its contingency.” – John Gray
Our cherished preeminence would crumble with just a cursory understanding of the ‘Many-Worlds’ interpretation of quantum mechanics. ‘The Web of Life’ would finally acquire meaning when learning about the enchanting entanglement that occurs between subatomic particles separated by billions of light-years of space.
We’d surrender our insistence on immutability once we appreciate the fluid nature of the stellar story in which we find ourselves. You want nothing to change? Show me stasis in nature and you will have shown me a frozen or dead system. If you suffer from insomnia, try reading a novel where nothing changes.
Realizing how improbable our presence is on Earth; the many accidents and near-misses, the coincidences and lucky breaks that preceded our arrival, would we ever curse our fate or bemoan our existence? Would we dare utter the phrase ‘Sunday night blues’?
Allowing ourselves to be stunned by the fact that every star, snowflake, seashell, tree, flower…each and every one of us is one-of-a-kind; an inimitable entity in the unfolding story of the Universe, would we continue struggling to become someone else?
Knowing that the ethics of moderation, prudence, bravery, and reciprocal altruism are encoded in our behavior as in all animals, would we continue searching for moral guidance in dusty libraries, yoga retreats, therapy couches, pews, stone tablets, or up in the heavens?
We might develop a healthy skepticism of our vaunted rationality knowing that the frontal lobe of our brain is of recent occurrence in the evolution of our species and that we had no trouble feeding ourselves and navigating the world before then. This realization would encourage us to reconnect with our bodies, our senses and instincts, and repair the rift we’ve caused between ourselves and the natural world.
A little too abstract, a little too wise,
It is time to kiss the earth again,
It is time to let the leaves rain from the skies.
I will find my accounting where the alder leaf quivers
In the ocean wind over the river boulders
I will touch things and things and no more thoughts,
That breed like mouthless mayflies darkening the sky. – Robinson Jeffers
When our individual stories are rightly embedded within this vaster narrative and deep mystery, we might comprehend that our role and purpose is to ensure we don’t spoil it with our arrogance, rapacity, dogmas, and petty fears, aims, and lamentations.
Knowing that there is no one like us among 7.53 Billion humans should be enough to divert us from debilitating and fruitless emulation, rouse us from apathy and conformism, from spiritless cowardice and escapism, from selfishness and greed, and make us stake our unique claim and contribute to the magnificent symphony which began before space and before time.
“Every aspect of Nature reveals a deep mystery and touches our sense of wonder and awe. Those with the courage to explore the weave and structure of the Cosmos, even where it differs profoundly from their wishes and prejudices, will penetrate its deepest mysteries.” – Carl Sagan
As it is, we are but sorry violins discarded in the moldy attic of our past. With strings slack, broken tuning pegs and cracked bouts, we no longer resonate, vibrate, thrum, or harmonize, so can’t play our once rightful part within the concert hall of the Cosmos. When we insist, it is shamefully obvious we’ve forgotten the musical score, so we play off beat and out of tune. With humanistic conceit, we willfully ignore that should we vanish tomorrow, the concert hall would remain open and the show would go on.
It’s time to relearn the score.
Let’s retrace our steps along the path and recover our scent before it’s too late. The Universe will be glad to be rid of us if we don’t.