In his groundbreaking book, The Universe Story, cosmologist Brian Swimme put out the call: “We need a common and compelling vision of the nature of the Universe and the role of the human within it. Such a new cosmology must be grounded in the best empirical, scientific understanding and must be nourished just as deeply by the vibrant cores of our planet’s wisdom traditions. Only such a vision has a chance of awakening the deep psychic energies necessary to shape a new era of health, well-being, and true prosperity.”
Maria Montessori anticipated Swimme by more than half a century. She wrote: “If the idea of the Universe be presented to the child in the right way it will do more for him than just arouse his interest, for it will create in him admiration and wonder, a feeling loftier than any interest and more satisfying. The child’s mind then will no longer wander, but becomes fixed and can work.”
Brian Swimme’s call, and Maria Montessori’s perceived need for a “right way” to share the universe with children, has been answered by Jennifer Morgan. Morgan is a storyteller steeped in the new cosmology. She has a gift for sharing complex ideas with children. In her book, Born with a Bang: The Universe Tells Our Cosmic Story she takes on the voice of the Universe telling its own story. Born with a Bang is the first in the trilogy, the story from the Big Bang through the formation of Planet Earth. It’s a story of crisis, courage, and creativity – eight billion years that included a devastating war between particles and anti-particles, the formation of suns and galaxies, the “baking” of complex elements in the furnace of giant Mother Stars, lurking black holes, exploding supernovas and stardust that eventually becomes Earth around us. (The second installment, From Lava to Life tells of life from its earliest forms through dinosaurs; the final book, Mammals who Morph tells the story of mammals and mankind.)
There’s a timeline and lots of science. But there’s also lots of drama. The Universe nearly perishes, then bravely triumphs and turns itself into new and ever more spectacular forms. The result is a sense of the Universe as a living being and every part playing a vital role. Astronaut Edgar Mitchell, who endorsed the book, had a similar experience on his way home from the moon. He said, “my mind was flooded with an intuitive knowing that … this magnificent Universe is a harmonious directed, purposeful whole” and that humans are an integral part of the ongoing process of creation.
Rarely does science have such strong spiritual overtones. The telling of the Universe story gives both children and adults a profound sense of their own origin and a sense of wonder for the Universe as a whole. The story is based on discoveries of the 20th Century – how the Universe flared forth, expanded and unfolded in the Epic of Evolution. When the story is seen as a whole, its mythological dimension is striking, and appeals to the child in each of us. Readers are left with an intimate sense of their own identity as part of the story.