Wednesday, December 19, 2012

A Big History Holiday Credo

I just happen to find this passage of Marcus Aurelius in MEDITATIONS Translated by Staniforth, (1964) where he talks about a kinship response to the understanding of wholeness;
No matter whether the universe is a confusion of atoms or a natural growth, let my first conviction be that I am part of a Whole which is under Nature's governance; and my second, that a bond of kinship exists between myself and all other similar parts. If I bear these two thoughts in mind, then in the first place, being a part, I shall not feel aggrieved by any dispensation assigned to me from the Whole; since nothing which is beneficial for any whole can ever be harmful to a part, and in this case there is nothing contained in this Whole which is not beneficial to itself. (The same, indeed, could be said of every natural organism; but the nature of the universe has the further distinction that there is no cause outside itself which could ever compel it to produce anything harmful to itself.)
In the remembrance, then, that I am a part of such a Whole, I shall cheerfully accept whatever may be my lot. In the second place, inasmuch as there is this bond of kinship between myself and my fellow-parts, I shall do nothing that might injure their common welfare, but keep those kindred parts always purposefully in view, directing every impulse towards their good and away from anything that runs counter to it
Sounds like a Big History Holiday credo to me. 

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Our Goldilocks Moment

We live in the very special moment when our story is entering our story. This is the type of circular scenario I frequently use to try and explain the profound cultural significance of Big History. When I do, it is usually met with a blank stare. So I’ve been trying to come up with a new way of conveying what I mean.
We all know the old English fairy tale Goldilocks and the Three Bears.  Goldilocks comes upon the forest home of a family of bears who are out for a walk while their porridge cools. Assured that no one is home, Goldilocks tries out their chairs (breaks one), samples their porridge, and tests each bed until she finds the ‘just right’ size, temperature, and softness. She ends up falling asleep in the smallest bed and the climax of the tale is reached when the bears come home. Wee Bear finds the little girl in his bed and cries, "Somebody has been lying in my bed, – and here she is!" Awoken and startled, Goldilocks jumps from the window, and runs into the woods, never to be seen again.
The Goldilocks story is the namesake of an important concept in complexity theory and Big History known as the Goldilocks Principle. In Big History and the Future of Humanity, Fred Spier, makes good use of the idea that complexity only emerges under certain ‘just right’ circumstances (aka boundary conditions). But I propose a different use of the Goldilocks idea; as a metaphor that describes our current predicament/opportunity.
To make my point, the story would be modified just slightly. Imagine the plot twist if Goldilocks decided to do a little light reading before falling asleep. And what if the book she happened to grab off the nightstand was the story she was in? It's a moment captured on Goldi's face below.
"The Goldilocks Moment"
© Rich Blundell 2012 - original artwork commissioned to Jason May
This is what I mean when I say that “we live in the moment when the story is entering the story.” Big History is our story and this is our Goldilocks moment. Yeah, we were young, we experimented, we even broke a chair or two. But now, as the bears come up the path, the story is in our hands, what plot twist can we write...?


Thursday, January 12, 2012

Three clearly connected & beautiful things

Plastic bag scene from "American Beauty"

Cosmic evolution, humanity, and mundane beauty are all part of the same story. The challenge and question is how to connect and communicate them in personally meaningful ways...
Thanks Jack!