Today’s science has broken sharply with that of the Newtonian or modern era which left us with the impression that the sky was inert, dead, the lid on a machine, littered with machine parts that were cold and inert. 

This Hubble image shows two giant stars, and knots of cold, dense interstellar gas where new stars are forming, in the Northern Coalsack Nebula. The Free-floating Evaporating Gaseous Globules (frEGGs), can be seen when the new stars ignite. Image: NASA, ESA, and R. Sahai (Jet Propulsion Laboratory)

Today’s sky is alive and nurturing; it is living, dying and resurrecting.  It is vast and full of drama.  It is a spectacle to behold and thanks to human creativity and science (and Hubble and soon Webb telescopes), humans find themselves is a special situation today:  In a certain place in time and space when we can study the sky like never before and never in the future.  Why is this?

Astrophysicist Joel Primack and writer Nancy Abrams believe that we humans are living in a unique and special moment in the history of the universe that makes it possible to know the universe in an intimate way.  “It is the midpoint of time for our solar system” they tell us because our sun and planets are about five billion years old and within another six billion years the sun will grow so hot that it will expand and swallow up Mercury and Venus and burn Earth to a crisp. 

Ours is a special time to be living on planet Earth and in the universe itself. 

Multi-wavelength view of all that remains of the oldest documented example of a supernova, called RCW 86. The Chinese witnessed the event in 185 A.D., documenting a mysterious “guest star” that remained in the sky for eight months. Image: NASA/ESA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/CXC/SAO

Just as intelligent life on Earth is acquiring the ability to see to the distant reaches of the universe, accelerating expansion is carrying the most distant galaxies away ever faster, and they are disappearing over the cosmic horizon.  In short, our visible universe is emptying out: our distant descendants, no matter how advanced their telescopes may be, will never be able to see as many galaxies as we can see now.  In this sense, our era is the midpoint of cosmic time.  

Today represents a special window of time that can only happen during a relatively brief epoch in the entire history of the universe: late enough that intelligent beings have evolved who have instruments to observe the distant galaxies, but not so late that the galaxies have begun to disappear.  Without this period of overlap it might have been impossible for intelligent beings ever to get the chance to figure out the nature of the universe.*

*See Joel R. Primack and Nancy Ellen Abrams, The View from the Center of the Universe (NY: Riverhead Books, 2006), pp. 151, 117f.

Adapted from Matthew Fox, The Hidden Spirituality of Men: Ten Metaphors to Awaken the Sacred Masculine, pp. 10f.

To read the transcript of Matthew Fox’s video teaching, click HERE.

Banner Image: Urban Stargazers, Hoboken, NY. Photo by Oliver Rich on Flickr.

Queries for Contemplation

How does it feel to learn that our species arrived at just the right time in the unfolding of the universe to study the universe, Father Sky, to the fullest?

Recommended Reading

The Hidden Spirituality of Men: Ten Metaphors to Awaken the Sacred Masculine

To awaken what Fox calls “the sacred masculine,” he unearths ten metaphors, or archetypes, ranging from the Green Man, an ancient pagan symbol of our fundamental relationship with nature,  to the Spiritual Warrior….These timeless archetypes can inspire men to pursue their higher calling to connect to their deepest selves and to reinvent the world.
“Every man on this planet should read this book — not to mention every woman who wants to understand the struggles, often unconscious, that shape the men they know.” — Rabbi Michael Lerner, author of The Left Hand of God

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7 thoughts on “Our Post-Modern Sky”

    1. Richard Reich-Kuykendall
      Richard Reich-Kuykendall

      Barbara, And “where have all the flowers gone?” Viktor Frankl, taught us in MAN’S SEARCH FOR MEANING, that even in Auschwitz he could have joy. The human spirit is very resilient, and we can find joy, if that is what we are looking for…

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