Essay The New Cosmology

Where Are We in the Story of the Universe?

It’s 2:40 am and I have finally given up trying to sleep. I’m on fire.

I am thinking about the journey of the universe and where we are in this journey and our role as human beings in this journey and how it places us in time and space and makes sense of our current situation. This is the Story of the Universe, the story of how we got here and the meaning and nature of the current crisis we as Earthlings and human beings are in the middle of.

Before me is a triangle of celestial beings, top right is Mars, to its left is Saturn, and below is Antares, the red giant star in the tail of Scorpius. Very cool.

So here we are, planet earth in the form of us, of me, of Earth, planets, circling our source of energy and warmth, unseen at the moment, the Sun.

Sun is down under me at the moment, a little to my left, closer to rising than setting. As I face south, I am traveling sideways toward my left at a thousand miles an hour on my way toward dawn. Gravity keeps me from being thrown off into space. Gravity, felt as my weight, keeps me bonded to Earth, as Earth is to Sun. We are traveling together, Earth and me. Everything in the solar system is traveling eastward from an Earthling’s perspective. We orbit the sun in a counterclockwise direction facing south, as do all the planets, as does the moon around the Earth. This is the direction of spin of our solar system.

Sitting here in the middle of the night, I ponder myself, Earth, and the role of humankind in the destruction of Earth, and the unfolding of the universe and of the Earth.

We arrived here following our instincts, just like all the other animals and life on earth do. We do our best to survive and to make ourselves happy. We do what is pleasurable and avoid what hurts. This works for all the other creatures. What’s our problem? Why is the Earth dying at our hands?

The systems which keep all other organisms in check don’t work with us. Why? Why are we overpowering the systems of checks and balances which keep everyone else in check, in harmony with the biosphere? We will eventually be kept in check, of course, but why at such a cost to the entire Earth community?

One answer is the development of the symbol. Other creatures use tools, modest by our standards, but tools nonetheless. And we don’t know much about dolphin communication, or perhaps whales, but symbolic activity dominates the lives of humans and has been developed by us to become an overwhelming power on planet Earth. We give things names using abstract symbols which start out as pictures but morph into symbols which we use as categories. Then we have categories of categories and categories of categories of categories, etc., etc., etc.

And we record the symbols with writing, and films and audio recordings, and as systems in computers and in systems of computers we now call the cloud. Very interesting. Pierre Teihard de Chardin, Thomas Berry, and Brian Swimme have suggested the power of the symbol changes everything, changing even the way by which life on Earth now evolves. As specialists in symbols, we have developed extraordinary powers, but not the wisdom to manage them well, let alone for the benefit of all. Earth does this managing for all other creatures, but we are so empowered we will have to do it for ourselves as a species or we will not survive, and it is unclear whether life on Earth will survive the cataclysm we will generate if we don’t do this, or whether life will survive but never again reach the current level of complexity. We don’t want to test this. We want to change so human civilization and the whole Earth community thrives and evolves over the next billion years and beyond.


This is the great discovery of science and is the foundation of our new story. The whole Cosmos is evolving and has been since the beginning 13.8 billion years ago, and life is a special case of cosmic evolution, as is the development of symbolic reasoning and communication and storage of information. The universe is evolving and our consciousness and activities are aspects of cosmic evolution. They are natural developments of an evolving, complexifying universe. This Is It! Right now, our awareness is a new development of the universe in its journey toward greater self awareness, greater power to grow and develop, greater possibilities for unfolding to yet more wondrous states of being, feeling, compassion, love, joy. The universe is on a journey toward self fulfillment of a potential we can vaguely discern, but Brian Swimme suggests it seems to be heading toward a comprehensive compassion for the whole, for the wellbeing of all beings and the wellbeing and unfolding of the whole Cosmos.

The universe, by complexifying, is increasing the depths of communion which are possible. The universe is all about communion. New beings come into being in every moment in a condition of interbeing with all other beings and with the whole of being. This speaks to our human potential. We are capable to waking up to the marvelous condition of interbeing, of communion happening here and now among all aspects of reality, among all beings and energies, inside of and constituting us, as we and other beings are inside of and constitute the Earth community, the solar system, galaxies, galaxy clusters, and super-clusters of galaxies all expanding away from each other as the expansion of the universe accelerates.

So what is happening now? We humans have brought about the sixth great mass extinction that has happened over the last 500 million years, the time during which there has been life on earth big enough to see. 20,000 species a year are going extinct. 50,000 years ago the rate was about one every five years. That’s an increase of 100,000 times. What else is being destroyed? For one thing, the delusions which have brought about this destruction are themselves being destroyed. The philosophy of the world as resource for our use is being destroyed. Modern industrial society, over the last few hundred years, has been exploiting stored fossil fuels to power civilization. But we exploit everything, including our own beautiful human potential. Slavery is thousands of years old. The Greeks did it, countries like the US were founded on it, and it goes on today around the world. We kill animals, including fish, with the idea that they are just resources for our use. All of life and non-life is thought of that way—earth, mountains, rivers, oceans, plants, animals, ecosystems. The sacredness of the universe, the Earth, living and non-living beings, is nonexistent as far as modern industrial consciousness is concerned. This attitude toward life and toward Earth and toward reality is being exposed and will be destroyed in the cataclysm, one way or another, whether it requires our extinction or not. We are learning from the cataclysm. Whether we learn fast enough to prevent the worst is uncertain. It’s a very exciting time to be alive. We most certainly do live in interesting times.

Léopold Trouvelot

From a set of fifteen exquisite chromolithographs produced from pastel works by French artist and astronomer Étienne Léopold Trouvelot, for The Trouvelot Astronomical Drawings, published in 1882. “After a somewhat disastrous foray into entomology (he accidentally introduced the highly destructive European Gypsy moth onto North American soil), Trouvelot turned to illustrating the heavens and was invited onto the staff of the Harvard College Observatory. Trouvelot also published some 50 scientific papers, and was credited with discovering ‘veiled spots’ on the Sun in 1875.”—Public Domain Review (Image source: New York Public Library)

Our notions of what is the good life will be eradicated and replaced by the realization that true happiness comes from enjoying the communion experience which is our true human potential, not from consumerism, that is, if we are to survive. We will have to give up thinking that other beings are resources to feed our pleasure. We raise animals in conditions of great suffering so that they can be killed or milked to sate our palates, while feeding them contributes to 20,000 children under the age of five starving to death every day. Is this how we want to live on the Earth?


One great capacity we have is to be able to formulate a higher purpose for our lives. We can ask ourselves, “What is my deepest desire? What is my higher purpose?” We can generate answers. Mine is to act in the most skillful way I can to enhance the wellbeing of the whole Earth community and the beings constituting the whole. I want to feel my way into the grain of the universe and participate as best I can in the evolution of the universe, to awaken, to find joy and happiness in communing with reality as it wells up in my consciousness, moment by moment. I want the deepest possible pleasure that comes from spiritual awakening to interbeing as I am concentrated and liberated from delusions and into a fresh awakeness. I want to be a blessing to the world as I feel blessed to be the world. I want to use my particular gifts, as a singer songwriter, story teller, and student of the universe in this process. You are invited to answer this question for yourself. I think it is a wonderful practice.


Brian Swimme—books, videos, and movie, Journey of the Universe, along with the accompanying curriculum. Journey of the Universe.

Thomas Berry—The Great Work: Our Way Into the Future. He was Brian Swimme’s mentor, and Pierre Teilhard de Chardin was his.

Michael Dowd and Connie Barlow—The Great Story.

Dr. Michael Greger—How Not to Die, and

John Robbins—Healthy at 100Diet for a New America, and website.

Brian Wendel—Forks Over Knives movie, cookbook, and website.

Dr. Neal Barnard—Vegan Starter Kit.

Dr. Will Tuttle PhD—The World Peace Diet, and website.

Anna Lappe, Diet for a Hot Planet: The Climate Crisis at the End of Your Fork and What You Can Do About It, and website.

About Keith Mesecher

I practice and teach mindfulness in the tradition of Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh. I was ordained as a member of the Order of Interbeing in his tradition in 2013. I am also a student and teacher of the science-based Story of the Universe, told as a sacred myth, in the tradition of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, Thomas Berry and Brian Swimme. I integrate these in my teaching and practice. I’m a singer/songwriter/guitarist celebrating the magnificence of Earth and Cosmos and I make my living as a socially responsible investment advisor. I live in San Diego, CA with my wife of 34 years, Marge Wurgel, and we love eating an Earth friendly whole plant food diet and walking in the mountains.

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