Wilber's history of everything...

I found an used copy of Ken Wilber's The History of Everything yesterday and started to give
it a go last night. For the past 20 years I've wanted to spend some time reading his work but have felt intimidated by the depth of his intellect. This is a highly user friendly introduction that is simultaneously fun and intriguing.  In the early pages he makes a fascinating observation about holons - entities that are both complete unto themselves and parts of something else, too - that cooperatively move towards greater creativity and self-surrender at the same time. He notes that there appears to be an evolutionary creative energy at work in the kosmos (not just the physical realm but also the spiritual, intellectual and emotional) that draws all things towards new and ever more helpful forms.

Two examples are instructive. Take the evolution of wings from an animals forelegs; Wilber notes there there is no satisfying rational explanation in traditional, reductionist evolutionary science except the presence of "the creative impulse" for "the 100 mutations necessary for the evolution of wings " He writes: "a half-wing will not do."

A half-wing is no good as a leg and no good as a wing - you can't run and you can't fly. It has no adaptive value whatsoever. In other words, with a half-wing you are dinner. The will will work only if these hundred mutations happen all at once, in one animal - and also these same mutations must occur simultaneously in another animal of the opposite sex, and then they have to somehow find each other, have dinner, a few drinks, mate and have offspring with real functional wings. Talk about mind-boggling... and random mutation cannot begin to explain this. How do we get one hundred non-lethal mutations all happening simultaneously?

The mystery of this "creative impulse" is currently being called "quantum evolution" in order to embrace the inexplicable self-transcendence that takes place in reality. His other example is equally fascinating to me.  It involves the old hypothesis that given enough time "1000 monkeys typing randomly would manage to type out a play by Shakespeare." Wilber continues:

Given enough time! One computation showed that the chance for monkey power to produce a single Shakespeare play was one in ten thousand million million million million million million. So maybe that would happen in a billion billion years. But the universe doesn't have a billion billion years. It only has twelve billion years. So this changes everything. Calculations done by scientists... consistently show that twelve billion years isn't even enough to produce a single enzyme by chance. In other words, something other than chance is pushing the universe. For traditional scientists, chance was their salvation. Chance was their god... chance - plus unending time - would produce the universe. But they don't have unending time so their god fails them miserably... (in fact) chance is what the self-transcending drive of the Kosmos overcomes!
There is something creative strengthening and driving new life - a mystery that involves all of creation including Spirit and thought as well as physical matter - something built into the fabric of everything. Wilber is quick to point out that we might substitute the word God for this mystery but we must be careful not to create our God in our image. I am eager to read more this evening. Two notions are swimming around in my head right now:

+ First, I am attracted by Wilber's commitment to depth and breadth. In other areas I find myself moving slowly because I want to go deeper and wider in my understanding before shooting off my big mouth. I am quietly reading and praying over the legacy of the Palestinian nakba - the forced relocation of 750,000 Palestinians off their land during the war the Arab leaders started against Israel in 1948 - and find myself ever going deeper. There are examples of vicious ethnic cleansing massacres by the Israeli forces, and, policies and practices that tried to hold back the anger and fear of these soldiers. There are examples of Israeli citizens opposing the forced relocation of their Arab neighbors as well as ugly Palestinian reprisals against their Jewish counterparts.  And no where in the popular narrative of this horror is there mention of the fact that while Palestinians were being forced out of their homes by Israeli armed forces, Jews were being driven from their homelands in Arab nations at gun point, too - almost 700,000 had to make their way to Israel for resettlement. There is more research, study, discussion and prayer I must do before I can comprehend anything except the anguish and horror of that war.  At best, I pray and grieve for both the people of Palestine and the people of Israel today knowing they have suffered - and continue to create greater suffering - as these injustices fester.

+ Second, the presence of this mysterious, creative impulse in the Kosmos inspires me towards greater personal and social creativity. It is another small clue that the focus of this sabbatical is right: rest, renewal, prayer and music making at a deep level. Both Di and I have noted that three weeks into this trip we are about ready for the residence to begin.  We want to go deeper into the quiet.  I was in touch with the luthiers this morning about my bass rental. My fingers and mind are itchy to start practicing - and composing - and listening and having some fun with where it all leads. I read this quote earlier this morning that speaks to my growing sense of our time:

Bishop Kallistos Ware, drawing from John Climacus (AD 525-606) writes: "The hesychast, in the true sense of the word, is not someone who has journeyed outwardly into the desert, but someone who has embarked upon the journey inwards into his own heart; not someone who cuts himself off physically from others, shutting the door of his cell, but someone who 'returns into himself,' shutting the door of his mind."

This is our last day in Pittsburgh.  It will be a day of walking and watching - quiet conversations and simple meals - as we savor this wonderful gift. 


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