Primack and Abrams remind us that not only is the time of the universe in which we live special, but so too is our size. The size of a thing “is not arbitrary but crucial to its nature” and we humans are “at the center of all the possible sizes in the universe.” It turns out that our size is the only size that conscious beings like us could be. Smaller creatures would not have enough atoms to be sufficiently complex, while larger ones would suffer from slow communication—which would mean that they would effectively be communities rather than individuals. Each of us human beings is midway between the size of a living cell and the size of Earth.
A cell on the tip of my finger is as tiny compared to me as I am compared to planet Earth. A single atom in that cell is as tiny compared to me as I am compared to the sun.
Primack and Abrams talk about the “Goldilocks Principle”: Creatures much smaller than we are could not have sufficient complexity for our kind of intelligence, because they would not be made of large enough number of atoms. But intelligent creatures could not be much larger than we are, either, because the speed of nerve impulses—and ultimately the speed of light—becomes a serious internal limitation. We are just the right size.
The authors conclude that we humans, contrary to the teachings of modern thinkers like Calvin and Russell and Gould, are significant to the universe. We are special. Special for our size, special for our intelligence and creativity; and special for the time in which we live—our time on earth and in the solar system and our time in the universe’s time of fourteen billion years.
See Joel R. Primack and Nany Ellen Abrams, The View from the Center of the Universe (NY: Riverhead Books, 2006), pp. 156, 161, 176, 175.
Adapted from Matthew Fox, The Hidden Spirituality of Men: Ten Metaphors to Awaken the Sacred Masculine, pp. 11f.
To read a transcript of Matthew Fox’s video teaching, click HERE.
Queries for Contemplation
Are we awe-struck sufficiently and sufficiently grateful for our unique existence at the right time and our unique size to take in the universe in its fullness?
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