Of Universes, Bacteria, Emergence and Transition

 

What is our nature? Where did we come from? What are we made of? How are we connected to it all? And most importantly: is the answer to any of these questions the answer to our lives purposes and the possible answer to the challenges of these times?

Those are the questions explored in the amazing Specialization: “Journey of the Universe, a Story of Our Times” run by Coursera and Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies.

The science seems clear: we (and all the elements, life, ecosystems, “stuff” around us) are an emergence from “simpler” stuff and processes that connect all the way back to the emergence of the stars and these, to the Big bang. Even your consciousness and mine, your ego and mine, are all a construct, an emergence from simpler “forms”, but in reality, we are all mirrors (sometimes smaller and simpler, sometimes bigger and more complex) of the entire universe…and yet, we can only perceive (even with technologies not yet invented) around .5% of all what “is”…

According to many indigenous stories and belief systems, the stars and us are just a continuum, a process and all beings, including the elements, are our relatives.

According to science, the stars are literally our ancestors: from their supernova explosions, all elements that form us and all we see were created and are continuously being created. You and I are made of the many things and beings who have existed and transformed before us, we are also made of the air we breathe, the food we eat and the things and beings we encounter and touch us…our behaviours, moods and actually all our health depends on what’s in our guts. According to the latest’s discoveries, microbiome living in and on our bodies (made of bacteria, viruses, yeast and other beings)  are 10 times the amount of our body cells and make up to 90% of our “genes”…we are not even a “being” but an ecosystem managed by an “ego” that thinks we are somewhat special and separated, unique. But we are actually a community, an “emergence”: we are made of atoms and atoms are not alive, but we are…

According to every single religion in the world, there is a cosmology and that connects us with the entire universe and its beings…

What this specialization wants to achieve is not simple goal: through interviews and readings from both scientists and cosmologists, amazing people actively involved in social change and environmental protection and regeneration, they want each one of us to discover how the story of our universe may guide us through these difficult times: how the scientific and spiritual understanding that we come from the stars and are all connected (not a “New Age” concept but a reality) shapes our decisions of how we engage in the world…

For me, it has been a struggle to reconcile the fact that we didn’t emerge from the stars and billion of years of evolution to work 40+ hours a week inside a cubicle, or to sit for hours in front of a TV, video game or to check a screen every two minutes…we didn’t emerge to be enslaved, abused and oppressed either, and yet things like the current model of economics, capitalism, neoliberalism with its “market invisible hand” and globalization are also “emergences” coming from our own collective making, either proactive or passive…

We didn’t emerge to create climate change, resource depletion or ecosystems collapse, and yet that’s what emerged from our collective actions and inactions, acceptance of stories no longer serving us about what we are and why we are here…

I struggle with the idea of a “purpose”: human beings emerged as free from what binds all other beings so far: Other beings have some level of awareness, however, they seem to be bind by instincts or natural “rules” or “laws” beyond their infancy: even a cell needs awareness to “decide” whether a particle will be allowed to come through their membrane or not, and Gaia is proven to have a similar awareness as its atmosphere is actually a “membrane” that allows or not certain things to penetrate or stay…yet all these processes are governed by “laws” or “rules”. All animals’ “children” seem to be free of these for a while and stay open and curious to the world, oblivious to the fact that some things are poisonous or some species may eat others, until they grow and start “behaving”…human beings, on the other hand, have a bit more freedom: while we are still bind by things like gravity, and we obviously need to breath, drink, eat and sleep, we have more options: we are almost the only species that can adapt in almost any environment, choose to live “outside of nature” and still survive (by controlling some aspects of nature) and probably the only to have an awareness beyond what’s needed to survive: we are aware of our own emergence and that of all the other things around us…

Take a few minutes to read and digest this scientific truth:

Billions of years ago, the then existing bacteria were producing oxygen for the first time (at least in this side of the universe)…this oxygen became a nuisance as it was toxic to them: and what the bacteria did in response to this thing that emerged from their bare living? Well, some bacteria actually hid below the seabed so they would avoid contact with this toxic oxygen (denial?), some of them continued as they were and eventually died (mainstream bacteria keeping the status quo?), some of them fought each other for territories and resources as they were disappearing (not need to compare here, right?), others probably succumbed to despair and gave up… but some of them transformed themselves (emerged) into organisms that could synthetize oxygen and invented one of the best processes that sustain all our current lives: photosynthesis (change makers, activists anyone?)

The universe, as it shows by its emergence, evolution and story, can’t stop being creative and resilient: after the Big Bang, gravity and energy waves created the galaxies and the stars…stars, while dying and changing create all the elements known, and these elements created the conditions for life to emerge…

Think for a moment what that means: creativity and resilience have always been present, transforming things and giving birth to more complex things: emergence…

 

Have you ever thought that that capacity of being aware, feeling and knowing beyond time and space (thanks to our invention of symbols, which are a sort of “coding” like the DNA but for thoughts, feelings and stories) that we call “consciousness” is actually (as everything else in the universe) an “emergence”?

Do you know that an emergence, according to most recent discoveries and theories is something that arises (emerges) from things or processes that may not have the same properties of that of the new “emergence” but that may be a small mirror of that, like a fractal?

I’m not talking nonsense or going crazy here, I am trying to both understand, feel and ultimately “get” what means for each one of us to be part of this journey, to share this common story of our origins and nature, to be all connected both with the past, the present and the future.

To fully understand that we are not a rarity or aliens: that we have always belonged here, that we are probably in the middle of something bigger than us, that our awareness or consciousness (that amazing emergence) is not an accident nor something to take for granted.

It is actually sacred…

And it gives you and me a responsibility, it binds us.

We just can’t help, so relax and embrace…

 

What group of bacteria you identify with?

May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind be always at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face;
the rains fall soft upon your fields and until we meet again,
may God hold you in the palm of His hand.

~ traditional gaelic blessing

Some suggested readings and resources:

 

http://journeyoftheuniverse.com/

http://agodthatcouldbereal.com/

http://www.capracourse.net/

https://medium.com/sfi-30-foundations-frontiers/emergence-a-unifying-theme-for-21st-century-science-4324ac0f951e

http://new-universe.org/index.html

For action and inspiration, consider taking an EDE course, either online or in person: https://gaiaeducation.org/index.php/en/

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