The Emergent Universe Oratorio Composed by Sam Guarnaccia and performed by the Main Line Symphony Orchestra at St. Thomas of Villanova Church on the campus of Villanova University as part of the 2018 International Big History Association Conference. (Higher quality Vimeo recordings are here.)
The Great Flaring Forth
In the great silence—before space or time—
A trembling — a singularity of infinite potential—
The first stirring of our shimmering Universe.
In that fertile darkness grew
An unimaginable attraction —
An unbounded possibility —
That the Universe would burst into brilliance,
Flaring forth with inconceivable power.
Impelled by cosmic fire —
An ecstasy of elementary particles and light —
In a micro-instant
The fireball would inflate — Expanding space
As gravity waves shaped the contours
Of the emerging cosmos.
So would begin a journey into magnificence,
The blossoming of our universe,
A single, multi-form energy event,
Ever evolving in beauty and complexity.
Enfolded in the chaos of primordial particles would be
The impulse of matter to bond,
Igniting the promise
Of atoms and galaxies,
Suns and planets, oceans, rivers,
Trees, butterflies, and songs of love.
In the great silence—
The Universe poised — in exquisite — anticipation — Gathering —
Awaiting the first breath —
Space — Time — Mass — Light —
The Great Radiance unfurled —
The story of a living Universe
Bringing forth all that we know,
Birthing all that we are and ever shall be.
Asking of us now —
How shall we move into this Mystery?
How may we know and live this story?
How shall we know and love this Earth?
Peter Adair, with Caitlin Adair, Sam and Paula Guarnaccia
How surely gravity’s law,
Strong as an ocean current,
Takes hold of even the smallest thing
And pulls it toward the heart of the world.
Each thing —
Each stone, blossom, child —
Is held in place.
Only we, in our arrogance,
Push out beyond what we each belong to
For some empty freedom.
If we surrendered
To earth’s intelligence
We could rise up rooted, like trees.
Instead we entangle ourselves
In knots of our own making.
And struggle, lonely and confused.
So, like children, we begin again
To learn from the things,
Because they are in God’s heart;
They have never left him.
This is what the things can teach us:
patiently to trust our heaviness.
Even a bird has to do that
Before it can fly.
Rainer Maria Rilke, Translated by Joanna Macy and Anita Barrows
Emanating Brilliance of Stars
“How are we to understand the beauty of the Universe?
What gave birth to all this beauty?”
What is the mystery —
the ‘primordial vibrations’ — -1
the music at the heart of the Universe? — SG
More than one trillion galaxies paint the heavens—
Majestic Islands in an expanding ocean of dark energy—
Held together in the fierce embrace of dark matter—
Each with countless stars —
Echoes of the Great Flaring Forth.
Spiraling galaxies like our Milky Way are wombs of creativity,
For along their dancing bejeweled arms
Density waves pulse, hydrogen clouds contract,
And new stars continually burst into brilliance.
Like humans, stars are born, flourish, age and die.
In their dying, large stars collapse inward—
Then explode as breathtaking supernovas
Spewing newly created heavy elements into the vastness of space.
The very atoms composing our bodies—
Carbon, oxygen, magnesium, iron—
Woven through every leaf, feather, eye or hand—
Are born in the spectacular explosions of perishing stars.
In one great galactic arm,
An immense fragment of molecular cloud collapsed—
Its gas and cosmic dust grains
Flattening into a disc—
The center flaring into our Sun.
Poised on the ‘knife edge’ between implosion and explosion,
The sun drew these precious grains of dust
Into ‘the silence of the gravitational embrace’. -2
Gradually coalescing into a necklace of unique planets:
Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune—
And Earth, the bountiful Bearer of Life.
For countless millennia
Humans have looked with awe into the night sky,
Transfixed by the majestic beauty of the heavens,
Finding nourishment, meaning, guidance.
Our world—imaged forth in the wonders of the sun and clouds by day—
The stars and planets by night. -3
Now we know—
We are children of the Great Flaring Forth—
Stars are our ancestors—
And we—descendants of their radiant and creative Being.
Peter Adair, with Caitlin Adair, Sam Guarnaccia, Paula Guarnaccia
In the beginning
Was the dream,
Across the broad field of space—
The planets—suspended on the
Outstretched arms of our spiral galaxy.
One planet – a fertile mix of
Churning oceans, roiling magma,
And charged atmosphere—
Breathes into being
to become a Living Earth.
Over three billion years ago
The first fragile membrane formed
Separating the cell from its surroundings,
Becoming the first locus of perception, choice, sensation—
Determining what was nourishing, what was safe,
What was to remain.
Within its DNA, life remembered, encoding
Successes, rejecting failures—
Evolving patterns of adaptation and reproduction—
Intertwining spirals of memory mirrored in the unfolding fern,
The spider web, the Nautilus, the snail—
A patient, probing, innovative wisdom,
A single expanding responsiveness.
As these primeval cells
Spread throughout the Earth—
Some turned toward the Sun,
Their source of warmth and light,
Inaugurating the miracle of photosynthesis—
Sunlight becoming food for the planet.
Preparing the way for
algae, fungi, mosses,
Slime molds, sporophytes, the slithering fishes,
Frogs, turtles, lizards,
Every species of bird
Stretching their bright wings across the sky—
And the skinny shrew,
Small, warm blooded, among
The first of the beautiful mammals.
From the astounding creativity
of the great super-kingdoms Archaea and Bacteria,
Cells engulfed and merged with each other,
Bringing forth Eukarya—a new form of life—
Powered by oxygen,
Inventing the protective nucleus—
Co-evolving within a single cell of staggering complexity.
Earth awakened to itself and the Universe.
Emerging—‘through a glorious sequence of transformations,’-1
From the Flaring Forth—to galaxies—to stars—to Living Earth,
“Nothing is itself without everything else”. -2
Peter Adair, with Caitlin Adair, Sam Guarnaccia
The world is charged with the grandeur of God.
It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod?
Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;
And all is seared with trade, bleared, smeared with toil;
And wears men’s smudge and shares men’s smell: the soil
Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.
And for all this, nature is never spent;
There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
And though the last lights off the black West went
Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs —
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
World broods with warm breast and ah! bright wings.
Gerard Manley Hopkins
The Passion of Animals
Ravens in flight release twigs,
then swoop down gracefully to catch them again.
Porcupines dance on their hind legs,
swaying rhythmically from side to side.
Coyote cubs tussle and tumble by day, and after nightfall
Sing with their elders to the glory of the moon.
Six hundred million years ago,
animals emerged from this single-celled life.
With unique powers of movement,
they colonized new territories,
bringing forth a kaleidoscope of creatures—
Pervading Air, Land and Sea with sensual,
emotional and instinctual life.
Animals sensitize the planet,
Bringing forth symphonies of sound and smell, taste and touch:
Bees and wasps see ultraviolet light patterns
leading them to pollen and nectar.
Bats navigate the dark with echoing sound waves.
Dogs sniff a landscape of odors,
while tiny spring peepers join returning birds,
filling the springtime world with vibrant song.
Through the passion of animals,
Life unleashes an explosion of consciousness and sensitivity—
By constantly signaling and sensing each other—
From the flash patterns of fireflies at night
to the rescue of humans at sea by dolphins—
their perception creates intricate webs of interconnectedness,
predation, and caring.
Red-crowned cranes leap and float in a balletic mating dance.
Crows slide playfully down snowy inclines
on makeshift sleds of their own invention.
Elephants become delirious with excitement at the birth of a calf.
Young mammals revel in the pure joy of exuberant play,
rapturous pleasure evoking inventive behavior,-1
flexibility, and the stretching of boundaries.
Their play is practice for the high stakes of life and death
In the protected grace of parental care.
‘The ancient powers of their emotions’—
‘sculpted by the realities of survival’. -1
One day, Nature would produce a mammal
with a prolonged period
of youthful curiosity and exploration –
A being with a passion for learning, creativity, and wonder.
Peter Adair, with Caitlin Adair, Sam Guarnaccia
The Cascade: Dialogue
The Cascade: Dialogue Tim Guiles and Aly Brisbois
Aly Brisbois: Increasingly, human activity threatens animal well being; tens of thousands of species are declining, others are already gone.
Tim Guiles: Thin-Spined Porcupine, Polar Bear, African Forest Elephant, Bengal Tiger, Manatee, Hazel Dormouse.
Aly Brisbois: Trees, in forests across the world, struggle to adapt to environments that are rapidly changing.
Tim Guiles: Hinton’s Oak, African Blackwood, Monkey Puzzle, Four-Petal Paw-Paw, Florida Yew, Sugar Maple.
Aly Brisbois: Glaciers are being lost — receding and evaporating into the atmosphere.
Tim Guiles: Greenland Ice Sheet, Lewis Glacier, Antarctica, Exit Glacier, Gangotri Glacier, Muir Glacier.
Aly Brisbois: Bats populations are overwhelmed by disease and die in their hibernaculum each winter. Other winged animals fall into peril.
Tim Guiles: Little brown bat, Northern long eared bat, Bay Checkerspot, Fender’s Blue, Eskimo Curlew, Giant Ibis, Forest Owlet.
Aly Brisbois: The skin of amphibians is pervious to the chemical environments around them — they are some of life’s most vulnerable.
Tim Guiles: California red-legged frog, Puerto Rican crested toad, Mississippi Gopher frog, Blue Spotted salamander, Anderson’s Crocodile newt.
Aly Brisbois: And the coral reefs, one of the most bio-diverse habitats on Earth, many face extinction by the end of the century.
Tim Guiles: Great Barrier Reef, Florida Keys, Southeast Asian coral reefs, Caribbean coral reefs, Sri Lankan coral reefs, Surin Islands, Seychelles.
Aly Brisbois: Honeybee colonies mysteriously collapse and vanish from their hives, while native pollinators around the world are lost. For these and for all life going or gone forever, we share our lament.
Paula Guarnaccia and Amy Seidel
From primates our ancestors emerged a new breed,
Curious and playful, a dream-making animal
Spontaneous, astonished, compelled to try everything!
Language sputtered and sung into being —
Through language, each human
Carried an entire universe within,
Saturated with dreams and laughter
And blazing with imagination.
Every place we went, we became that place,
As the Spirit of seashore, forest, tundra
Captivated our imagining.
Diverse human cultures met and mixed and mingled
From wandering tribes into settled communities
Taming, inventing, expressing, exploring.
Earth became permeated with human presence.
Consciousness gave birth to symbols,
Which then magnified consciousness.
Language and symbol
Set fire to human possibility.
With writing, art, music, technology,
Life’s creativity burst beyond biological coding.
Human culture became a new DNA outside the body,
Changing the face of Earth
And the dynamic of evolution.
With human emergence, the universe created a space
Where depths of feeling are concentrated,
Where wonder is birthed,
Where an ocean of experience and understanding
Gave rise to a planetary species.
We belong here.
We are a planet-altering species, a juvenile species
Playing havoc with the air, the climate, the rivers, the oceans.
We live on a different planet now,
A planet where the human
Profoundly affects the course of evolution.
Yet we belong here.
This dream-making animal —
Riding a wave of conscious evolution
To find ourselves here
Telling the story of the universe, a story that is also telling us.
Peter Adair, with Caitlin Adair
The Peace of Wild Things
When despair for the world grows in me
And I wake in the night at the least sound
In fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
Rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
Who do not tax their lives with forethought
Of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
Waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.
Streams wind down from the heights,
Converging like branches of a tree.
John Muir, from his Sierra ridge,
Could see Yosemite’s lakes
As apples on those rippling boughs.
Merced, sweet River of Mercy,
Broadening through the valley,
was the trunk.
Here in the thickening woods
Of clear-cut and recovering Vermont
We see our watersheds as maples,
Fluctuating in the muddy spring.
On freezing nights twigs suck
Sap up to see them through
And barred owls call their mates
Across the starry dark.
Come sun-warmed morning, sap
Slides down the river of this trunk.
Matter expends itself in the limbs of life,
Surges back into the pulsing core.
Persuaded by time’s loving heat,
Even rocks keep metamorphosing
“into monarch butterflies,
Blue herons and the exalted
music of Mozart.” (1) Like wolves,
larger and grayer every year,
coyotes down from Canada
imprint the empty snow of March
while lifting their own wild songs
into the clamor of those amorous owls.
Time wells and eddies, spiraling outward
And inward in this tidal forest of a world,
Bringing sweetness to our mouths,
Strength to our bones,
Then homecoming and release.
Our separate lives find confluence here.
Whale song from
the deep of the sea.
Wolf cry from the forest.
Heartbeat of a planet.
As the sun
In the sky
Over a wounded
And the healing
Of the wound
Is there in
A single cry
A throat opened wide
For the wild
The darkening earth,
To bring back the Sun,
To let the flowers
Bloom in the meadows
The rivers run
Through the hills
And to let
The Earth and all
Her living creatures
Live their wild fierce
Serene and abundant life.
Emerging Earth Community
This is our moment—
“The Universe is holding its breath
Waiting for us to take our place.” (1)
Revolutionary discoveries have led us
to an astounding breadth of knowledge—
a phenomenal awareness—
Calling us to responsibility
Reaffirming what we already knew…
What we do to Earth, we do to ourselves!
Perhaps our destiny is
To journey into the depths of things —
To drink so deeply of the powers
Of this living universe, (2)
That we recognize
The profound dimensions of
Our radical mutuality—
And learn the languages of mountains,
of rivers, of trees,
the languages of the birds,
all the animals and insects—
and the languages of the stars.’- (3)
The great new understanding is this:
Our universe — a single,
irreversible, sequential, celebratory even — (4)
Is not simply a place,
But a story in which we are immersed,
To which we belong
And out of which we arose. (5)
We — live — our — lives — forward — into — mystery
Within the Community of EARTH—
A “magnificent diversity…
in the coherence of an unparalleled unity”—(6)
where the biosphere and human culture
Are not only emergent
But radically and ceaselessly and astonishingly creative. (7)
How can we find a way to sink into these immensities?
How can we embrace this intimate and
ineffable journey into grandeur? (8)
Cameron Davis, Paula Guarnaccia and Sam Guarnaccia
“We are beings
In whom the universe
Shivers in wonder at itself — (1)
The space where earth dreams.” (2)
Brian Thomas Swimme, Mary Evelyn Tucker
Something of wonder is happening—
We are awakening!!—
to a renewed awe in the presence of mystery—
in the presence of what is.
‘Like the ocean
with its power to pour through boundaries’—
We are capable of ‘a profound intimacy of relationship…’ (1)
with the winds, sea, land—
-all the unnumbered forms of life in the great community of Earth (2)
‘Something radically new’ has emerged—
“the capacity to experience the world” through another—(3)
Infused with Empathy—moved by Compassion—
Living within “an undivided wholeness”— (4)
‘a unified, glorious outpouring of being’. (5)
“For just as the Milky Way
Is the universe in the form of a galaxy
And an orchid is the universe
In the form of a flower,
We are the universe
In the form of a human.
And every time we are drawn to look up into the night sky
Reflecting on the awesome beauty —
We are actually the universe
Reflecting on itself.
And knowing this—changes—everything!!” (5)
Cameron Davis and Sam Guarnaccia
To See a World
To see a world in a grain of sand
And a heaven in a wild flower,
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand
And eternity in an hour.