Last week our Adult Forum guru introduced us to the thought of Joel Primack and Nancy Abrams, authors of The View from the Center of the Universe: Discovering Our Extraordinary Place in the Cosmos.
Here is the thesis of the book in three steps:
- Premodern societies saw themselves as central to the universe and made myths and religions that embraced this centrality. While their cosmology was wrong, their mythology was correct in that they saw themselves as a meaningful part of the whole. The universe as they saw it "fit" them and they "fit" in it.
- Modernity put humankind on the edge of the universe. Not central. Not important. Small in a vast meaningless cosmos. We no longer "fit." We are accidental. We are therefore filled with existential angst. We have our cosmology right, but our mythology is lacking. We cannot go back and embrace any one religion's mythology wholesale as it fits an ancient, outdated cosmology.
- However, we can use those symbols and myths from our premodern ancestors that work to help us reclaim the center of the universe again while embracing modern cosmology. Modern science is showing that we do "fit" the universe. We are central in many ways but we lack a mythology that affirms that reality.
That's a mouthful. One aphorism I read in the book is this: Think cosmically, act globally. I am on vacation this week and I hope to spend some time with this book. I will be back!