The Specialness of Being Human in this Universe

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.  

“Nerve Cell Stars” Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

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.

Banner image: “The glory of God is a [human being] fully alive” – St. Irenaeus. Photo by Zac Durant on Unsplash.

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?

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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13 thoughts on “The Specialness of Being Human in this Universe”

  1. Avatar

    Often I perceive, when regarding humans, we are only awe struck and grateful when we see humans doing big and beautiful acts, and therefore we often miss the small things that really matter. It’s kind of like walking in a garden and only seeing the flowers that are the brightest in color, or one’s that are the most fragrant, or the ones that are the most unique, and yet there are all these others that we just pass by without even noticing.

    However, when we really open the eyes of our hearts, within our relationships with each other, there is much unfolding that is there to be seen, within everyone we encounter daily, that can invoke a sense of awe, wonder and gratitude… if we but really learn to appreciate the small things that really do have the potential to awakens us to really accepting and valuing, the specialness, the uniqueness, that inherent goodness existent within each human being that we encounter… even when it may be hidden behind distressing disguises.

    1. Richard Reich-Kuykendall
      Richard Reich-Kuykendall

      Jeanette, Beautiful… don’t miss the small things, like Eckhart meditating on a caterpillar, and learning so much about it… Also, a good read on this is Ernst Friedrich Schumacher’s, SMALL IS BEAUTIFUL…

  2. Avatar

    Today’s DM is true-ly awesome. Primack and Adam’s conclusion is that we humans are an-atom-ically ‘perfectly what we are’ an-atom-ically is amazing. I recall learning that ‘every-thing’ is perfectly what it is when reading physics and metaphysics a few decades ago. I wondered then if ‘everything’ included me, as flawed as I was. Primack and Adams’ insights remind me of Leonardo da Vinci’s depiction of Vitruvian Man. The link below explains who Vitruvius was and how the application of his architectural principles was applied to the human body by da Vinci.,lived%20in%20Rome%20around%20the%20first%20century%20BC.

  3. Avatar

    What I hear Matthew saying is that it’s valuable to register, with awe and reverence (respect) the Goldilocks Story of our existence: we are just the right size, have just the right combination of abilities, etc. for life on Earth to be such a good fit for humans (in relation with other More-than-Humans- he could have said).
    We have a greater capacity for EVIL than other species and we have a beautiful capacity for JOY, exuberance and Celebration. Knowing this, can we tame ourselves to honor the nature of being human? And fully celebrate and accentuate our Gifts, given to us without merit?
    I find myself on a multi-decades-long quest to let go of Fixing (a Gift of problem-solving, caring enough to work hard, etc) as it carries a heavy load of fear and control-seeking motivation behind it. It helps me to Name It (“Fixing”), Claim It (“my human nature in a fear mode”), and then Tame It (committing to spiritual practices that shift me from fear to the flow of love.

    1. Richard Reich-Kuykendall
      Richard Reich-Kuykendall

      Susan, and for more on our greater capacity for evil than other species, see Matthew’s book, SINS OF THE SPIRIT, BLESSISNGS OF THE FLESH: TRANSFORMING EVIL IN SOUL AND SOCIETY…

  4. Avatar

    Just wanted to add my experience today while listening to Matthew. I loved his sense of humor and I felt like he was sitting right here with me and sharing his thoughts. I truly appreciate these daily videos with him. Plus I learn a lot. He helps me to understand the teaching of learned scholars. Blessings

  5. Avatar

    “When we pay attention to, and imitate the inherent goodness and beauty that we see, creatively and brilliantly within the symphony of nature… we find a foundation for our own creativity. As moral, ethical and virtuous agents, of the Divine essence and presence incarnate within our humanity, in our own personal, diverse and unique variations… we are awakened to intentionally and attentively participating freely with and in the cosmic chorus of creativity, harmony and beauty. At the highest level of this… we become conscious and responsible co-creators, co-artists, co-musicians with the Divine nature of God, who’s essence and presence is delicately attuning all of humanity to this potential music, this sacred sounding forth… seeded and sealed within the human heart.”

    ( paraphrased from Dunn Scotus’s writings)

    1. Richard Reich-Kuykendall
      Richard Reich-Kuykendall

      Jeanette, I was communicating with Matthew last week about the German Existentialist philosopher, Martin Heidegger, and how he got the idea of “letting-go” and “letting-be” from Meister Eckhart as did Matthew–and which they are concepts so important to the Via Negativa. Interestingly enough, Heidegger, who was a Catholic, wrote his thesis on John Duns Scotus (c.1265-1308)…

  6. Avatar

    All of God’s creation is sacred, loving, and beautiful because God’s Spirit and Incarnation (Cosmic Christ) is with-in each unique manifestation, especially our eternal human souls and the loving conscious responsibility that goes with it as co-Creators and an important part of the interconnecting web of God’s Loving Presence and Evolving Life/Spiritual Energies…. Recently, I’m appreciating more the spiritual creation/evolutionary teachings of Teilhard de Chardin and Ilia Delio (theologian and scholar of Teilhard’s spirituality) synthesizing our mystical tradition and modern quantum physics (

  7. Avatar

    Scotus states, “we are both naturally and freely drawn to love rightly what we perceive to be good.” The trouble humanity finds itself in, with regards to this statement, is that we often remain fixated on the Via Negativa, narrowly focused on the negative within ourselves and each other, therefore we do not love ourselves or others as we naturally and freely are drawn to do. We value a delusional expectation of perfection, which no one can ever live up to, which the church for centuries indoctrinated into the hearts, minds and souls of humanity, which solidified within humans as sinfulness, held static in layers of guilt, shame, criticisim, judgement and hatred directed toward self and projected onto others… even onto how God views humanity. This then led to further oppression and suppression of that inherent goodness and the beauty of this specialness of being human and yet also divine in nature, created in the image and likeness of Christ, whom is the exemplar of this.

  8. Avatar

    Richard, Regarding your note of January 17 on the German philosopher Heidegger , responding to the responses of Matthew’s January 16 DM. Unfortunately, while noting Heidegger was a Catholic, you failed to mentioned that Heidegger went over to the Nazi’s in the early 30’s after Hitler’s takeover of the German state. If I recall correctly, he played an important role in “conforming” German universities to Nazi “standards”. This included “de-Judifying” those Universities. It’s possible to be a famous philosopher and yet do evil things. Matthew has pointed out the special ability of humans to engage in evil behavior in his current DM’s.

    1. Richard Reich-Kuykendall
      Richard Reich-Kuykendall

      Thomas, You are absolutely right. Heidegger was an active member of the Nazi party, and never renounced this till his death–although he did request, and had last rights by the Church before he died. My point in my comment before, was simply to point out that Heidegger got one of his concepts from the same place that Matthew did–and that was Meister Eckhart. That was not to dismiss his Nazi involvement, it was just trying to look at a rational contribution he made, despite his background. And this leads us to a very important point. Do we ignore truth and beauty because we feel the source was unethical? Do we reject Heidegger’s philosophy because of his lifestyle, or Nietzsche because of what the Nazi’s did with his writings, if so, do we reject the music of Michael Jackson because of allegations of sexual misconduct, or even the work of Woody Allen because he married his “not really” step-daughter ???

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