Sunday, August 24, 2014

What drives evolution?

Mary Pipher, in the ninth chapter of her book, The Green Boat, goes deep when she writes on page 188, “One of the most healing practices in terms of coping with the Great Acceleration is to connect with deep time, which I define as the time since the world began to the time when the world will end.” The Jesuit paleontologist, Teilhard de Chardin, describes this evolutionary trajectory as “from alpha to omega” the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet.

When we as Unitarian Universalists reflect on our seventh principle, “respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we a part” we might well consider not only breadth of that web in all its rich diversity, but also its depth, how it has historically developed and evolved, and also its future complexity which we cannot even begin to comprehend or understand except in science fiction and reading the speculations of our scientists as they try to understand and predict the evolutionary patterns that could develop and emerge.

Pipher writes a little further into the text:
“Recently, my friend Jeremy and I were weeding my garden, and he asked me what I thought drove evolution. I realized as I pondered this question that even though I had a degree in anthropology, I had never seriously considered it before. Obviously I could explain the scientific facts of evolution, but Jeremy was asking me why evolution occurred. He might as well have asked what motivates God.” p.189

Pipher, as she ponders Jeremy’s question, has to admit that she doesn’t know the answer, has no clue, but does say that the answer lies in the arena of what she calls “moral imagination.” She goes on to write that as far as her moral imagination goes, “I think the goal of all living beings is to fully realize their incipient gifts and to grow into more complete, differentiated, and integrated beings.” p. 189 Okay, well, that answer is as good as any I would guess and probably better than most. I would say that the purpose of Life is for all living things to actualize their potential, and could that potential involve mutation into something else which then has a new potential? That seems to be how evolution and natural selection works in its most basic formulation.

When we consider all this, the breadth of Life, and the depth of Life, we are usually awestruck by its wondrous magnitude and our seemingly small insignificance in the whole big picture. Pipher writes, god bless her, “One of the wonderful benefits of realizing one’s smallness in the context of an immeasurable universe is that, contrary to logic, this experience does not make people feel powerless and insignificant. Rather, it allows us to feel safe, connected, and comforted.” p190
Laying on your back in a grassy place and looking up at the cloudless night sky with all the stars, planets, and maybe moon is enough to provide a transcendent sense of bliss and wonder until the moisture vapor from a jet plane at 35,000 feet jars you out of the appreciation of the majesty of the heavens.

And yet, even in our modern space age, most of us are not so easily jaded that we still don’t have some small smidgen of wonder, and awe, and reverence, and mystery with our incarnated consciousness in this weary, pedestrian, mercenary hell which we humans have created in this entire splendor. As Unitarian Universalists who covenant together to affirm and promote our seven divine and inspired principles, we more than any other people on this planet Earth, should appreciate and be grateful for the experience of what we have here and stay vigilant and diligent in not only respecting it, but protecting it, and cooperating with the Spirit of Life in its continued evolution and development.

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