In Cathedral David Macaulay showed the world how a medieval cathedral was constructed. Here Macaulay shows how Cathedral itself was constructed, as a...moreIn Cathedral David Macaulay showed the world how a medieval cathedral was constructed. Here Macaulay shows how Cathedral itself was constructed, as a commemoration of the 25th anniversary of its publication.(less)
This is the 2nd time I read this book, and I still think of it as merely "OK." Perhaps that's because of the unnecessarily muddy artwork, particularly...moreThis is the 2nd time I read this book, and I still think of it as merely "OK." Perhaps that's because of the unnecessarily muddy artwork, particularly in the wordless segments, where clear visual storytelling is imperative. It might also be because I am missing out on any important back- story in The Looking Glass Wars series, which I only just realized exists and which I have no intention of reading.
[THOMAS:] We are forging a cosmology that embraces humanity as a species, one that does not ignore the special cultural contributions of each continent, but that enhances these differences. Each tradition is irreplaceable. Not one can be reduced to any other. Each is vital to the work of the future. Each will flower beyond telling in fruitful interaction with the rest in the overall embracing story of the cosmos.
During the first centuries of the modern period, such a situation was impossible. An antagonism existed between modern ways of knowing and traditional ways of life and belief. Perhaps this was necessary; the scientific enterprise needed austere isolation from both the animistic attitudes of the tribal period and the spatial cosmologies of classical civilizations. Scientific understanding was too new and too different to fit into previously existing modes of human awareness; it needed to establish its own canons, procedures, and experiments without reference to anything outside itself.
The great wonder is that this empirical, rational journey of science should have any contact at all with spiritual traditions. But in our century, the mechanistic period of science opened out to include a science of mystery: the encounter with the ultimacy of no-thing-ness that is simultaneously a real of generative potentiality; the dawning recognition that the universe and Earth can be considered as living entities; the awareness that the human person, rather than a separate unit within the world, is the culminating presence of a billion-year process; and the realization that, rather than having a universe filled with things, we are enveloped by a universe that is a single energetic event, a whole, a unified, multiform, and glorious outpouring of being. (39–40)
[THOMAS:] Drawn into existence by allurement, giving birth, then drawing others into existence—this is the fundamental dynamism of the cosmos. In this we can see the meaning of human life and human work. The star's own adventure captures the whole story. It is created out of the creations of the fireball, enters into its own intense creativity, and sends forth its works throughout the galaxy, enabling new orders of existence to emerge. It gives utterly everything to its task—after its stupendous creativity, its life as a star is over in one vast explosion. But—through the bestowal of its gifts—elephants, rivers, eagles, ice jams, root beer floats, zebras, Elizabethan dramas, and the whole living Earth, become possible. Love's dynamism is carved into the principal being of the night sky. (58)
THOMAS: To begin with, understand that humans are not unique in having to suffer. Nor are humans unique in being violent. We live in a violent universe. Violence fills the cosmos in various forms, and human violence is only one of these. Violence is a universal fact, but not the dominant fact of the universe. The great mystery is not violence, but beauty. We note the violence, all the more amazed that such stupendous graciousness and beauty should exist anywhere at all.
YOUTH: But where does violence come from?
THOMAS: Destruction has its root in the allurement permeating the universe. Allurement is the source of all activity, even destructive activity. The star, responding to allurement, destroys itself. No one comes from outside to demolish the star. The star implodes, smashing itself into a trillion parts—its journey is ended. Or imagine the violence of two stars colliding under mutual gravitational attraction. The fire would be splashed in every direction for millions of miles. Such tremendous violence, yet see the graciousness of hundreds of billions of stars swirling in the galactic dance.
The biological world knows all sorts of violence. The same urge that draws the lion to the river for water draws it on to kill the wildebeest. Insects are so intent to stretch forth and explore that world that they will devour their own parents if they cannot find other food. Fascination with living, the enchantment of being alive, the beauty of the surrounding world—all these draw creatures into violent acts and into the destruction of being, but after four billion years into life on Earth, what beauty has blossomed forth! There is danger in the natural world, a constant challenge, excitement, violence, risk, and terror, but out of this emerges the wonder of the Earth. (71–2)
[THOMAS:] We need to study the cosmic story, the Earth story, the human story, until we know it in its essential forms. A person who does not know the story of the universe is not yet living up to human destiny. But this knowing is not only cerebral; to know they story of life includes eating natural foods; to know the story of human civilizations means feeling the profound intuitions they achieved; and to know the story of the universe means to allow the great, numinous past to come alive in your present being.
YOUTH: You know, this is so different from everything I was taught. I have never once thought of studying history in this way, so that the universe could come alive in me.
THOMAS: I realize that. The switch out of an attitude where the human is the center of everything, to a biocentric and cosmocentric orientation where the universe and the Earth are the fundamental referents, is the radical transformation that we are presently involved with. It is disruptive. We are so quickly confused because we are accustomed to forgetting the Earth and cosmos to focus on the human world. But when you begin to grow into this larger way of living, you will discover new freedom, and a vast vision of being that makes the struggle worthwhile. (107)
[THOMAS:] Yes: death is terrifying. Do not belittle it. Do not try to reduce this. Do not project your puny ideas upon it. But use death's wareness as you would a fuel or lamp: as a secret guide who will lead you into the unknown and mysterious caverns of your self so that you can bring forth what you truly are. Your creativity needs your awareness of death for its energy, just as your muscles need long and painful workouts. Cherish your awareness of death as a gift to you from the universe. If you did not have this way of seeing the infinite significance of each moment, would anything have the power to get your out there to live your life?
What is especially exciting about our own time is the vision of the death of the species, and of the planet as a whole. Frightening, terrible, horrible—yes, certainly. But this is exactly what has the power to ignite the deepest riches within us. We can no longer live within the previous world-picture. We know that we have to do something, create and change in the essential dimension of things. The terrifying vision of an Earth gone black is psychic food for the human species. It brings us the energy that we need to re-invent ourselves as the mind and heart of the planet. We now take our first steps into the planetary and cosmic dimensions of being, moving out of the antropocentric modern period and into the cosmocentric, unfolding universe.
YOUTH: But what does it mean to become the mind and heart of the planet?
THOMAS: To live in an awareness that the powers that created the Earth reflect on themselves through us. That's why wee are discussing the night sky, the sea, and the land. Each of these reveals cosmic powers that we are to have and become. We are to live as alluring and remembering activity, as shimmering sensitivity. And this means the cosmic dynamic revealed by the life forms: surprise and adventure. Call it play; adventurous and surprising play. That's what life reveals; that's what life is.(118–9)
[THOMAS:] The human form of life can be considered the child of the Earth. This is especially clear when we examine the anatomies of other primates. The head of an infant chimpanzee resembles the head of an infant human in size and shape, but as the chimpanzee reaches adulthood, its head changes in significant ways. The human head remains comparatively the same infant head, only larger. In fact, the infant chimpanzee's head looks more like an adult human's head than its own future adult shape. This dynamic, in which the qualities of the young are retained into mature stages, is called neoteny. We can then begin to understand the human as an eternal child. The first human types were young primates who never "left" their youth. The shapes of their juvenile bodies were retained into adulthood, as was their juvenile behavior. The great accomplishment of the human form, then, was the creation of a mature form of childhood, a form of life that, upon reaching adulthood, could continue to devote itself to a lifetime of adventurous play. (121)
THOMAS: ... Let's just hope we can emulate some of the achievements of the prokaryotes?
YOUTH: In what ways?
THOMAS: To begin with, it would be wonderful if we could contribute something as essential to the Earth's life as oxygen. All the animals depend on the prokaryotes' creativity. Do you think Homo sapiens could match that one, or even come close to the value of our little microscopic cousins?
Secondly, we must act on our innate desires with the confidence that these are not disconnected from the Earth process as a whole. We are just now discovering a deep disgust with the industrial excesses of our consumer society. This disgust is genetically anchored, just as the cancers and other industrial diseases are genetically anchored. Our disgust and our diseases are Earth's way of making clear for us what activities are required.
Thirdly, and most importantly, we must embrace and cherish our dreams for the Earth. We are creating with our imaginations a period of rebuilding, where the intercommunion of all species will guide our life activities. We must come to understand that these dreams of ours do not originate in our brains alone. We are the space where the Earth dreams. We are the imagination of the Earth, that precious realm where visions and organizing hopes can be spoken with a discriminating awareness not otherwise present in the Earth system. We are the mind and heart of the Earth only in so far as we enable Earth to organize its activities through self-reflexive awareness. That is our larger destiny: to allow the Earth to organize itself in a new way, in a manner impossible through all the billions of years preceding humanity. Who knows what rich possibilities await a planet—and its heart and mind—that have [sic] achieved this vastly more rich and complex mode of life? <138–9)
[THOMAS:] Remember how elementary particles spontaneously erupt out of no-thing-ness, the ultimate realm of generation? Emptiness is permeated with the urgency to leap forth. The difficulty is with language: when we say emptiness, we fail to evoke any sense of awe for the truth of the matter.
We can use another word: the ground of being is generosity. The ultimate source of all that is, the support and well of being, is Ultimate Generosity. All being comes forth and shines, glimmers and glistens, because the root reality of the universe is generosity of being. That's why the ground of being is empty: every thing has been given over to the universe; all existence has been poured forth; all being has gushed forth because Ultimate Generosity retains no thing. (146)
YOUTH: I don't know whether to be excited or angry. There's so much, I'm so full of questions and plans, and I know it's going to leak away. I know I'll forget so much of this. Can you help me remember somehow?
THOMAS: We are talking about powers, and we've discussed six of them altogether: allurement, sensitivity, memory, adventurous play, unseen shaping, and celebration....We've pointed out ways in which they are presented to us. That is, we looked at the night sky and reflected on allurement. We examined the seas and talked of absorptions, assimilation, and sensitivity in general.... We say the dynamic of memory in the way the land remembers. We looked at the life forms and found there the presence of adventurous play, in exploration, free activity, and imagination.... Then we considered the flame, probing the meaning of the self, seeing in each of these the presence of unseen shaping. Finally, we considered wind and saw there the expansion of being, the dynamic of celebration. So: the night sky, sea, land, life forms, fire, wind. That's easy enough to remember. (149)
[THOMAS:] If the collision of tectonic plates gives rise to earthquakes, the emergence of the cosmic story gives rise to humanquakes. Think of it! For the first time in human history, we have in common an origin story of the universe that already captivates minds on every continent of our planet. No matter what racial, religious, cultural, or national background, humans now have a unifying language out of which we can begin to organize ourselves, for the first time, on the level of species.
All societies throughout human history have rooted themselves in fundamental stories of the cosmos. Out of their primal stories humans define what is real and what is valuable, what is beautiful, what is worthwhile, what to be avoided, what to be pursued. Modern society is no different. We too use our basic cosmology to assign power positions, making all crucial life decisions on the basis of these fundamental world views.
We are now restructuring our fundamental vision of the world. We are creating a new meaning for what we consider real, valuable, to be avoided, or pursued. The new cosmic story emerging into human awareness overwhelms all previous conceptions of the universe for the simple reason that it draws them all into its comprehensive fullness. And most amazing of all is the way in which this story, thought it comes from the empirical scientific tradition, corroborates in profound and surprising ways the ecological vision of the Earth celebrated in every traditional native spirituality of every continent. Who can learn what this means and remain calm? (161–2)
THOMAS: As you listen to this language, which is Earth's language, you become shaped by words. Your attention forms within words, your desires are shaped by words, your visions of the future are ignited by words.In all of this, the universe shapes you, shapes itself through you so that it might become more intensely present to itself through the unfurling of self-reflexive awareness.
Our primary teacher is the universe. The universe evokes our being, supplies us with creative energy, insists on a reverent attitude toward everything, and liberates us from our puny self-definition. The universe gives us fire and teaches us its use. (167)
[THOMAS:] And that's why I condense our contemporary cosmological scientific story of reality by saying that the universe is a green dragon. Green, because the whole universe is alive, an embryogenesis beginning with the cosmic egg of the primeval fireball and culminating in the present emergent reality. And a dragon, too, nothing less. Dragons are mystical, powerful, emerging out of mystery, disappearing in mystery, fierce, benign, known to teach humans the deepest reaches of wisdom. And dragons are filled with fire. Though there are no dragons, we are dragon fire. We are the creative, scintillating, searing, healing flame of the awesome and enchanting universe. (171)
Not at all what I was expecting, in a great way. A radical revamp (hardy har) of the Batman character and of the entire DC universe as well (for examp...moreNot at all what I was expecting, in a great way. A radical revamp (hardy har) of the Batman character and of the entire DC universe as well (for example, Metropolis, with its double entedre, and not Gotham, is the setting) done up in eerie, German Expressionist-inspired artwork. Another gem in the DC Elseworlds series. (less)
In the Amalgam Comics collections, the two modern American comics giants, Marvel and DC, "mash-up" their characters, major and minor, for a whole mess...moreIn the Amalgam Comics collections, the two modern American comics giants, Marvel and DC, "mash-up" their characters, major and minor, for a whole mess o'fun. One of the most enjoyable aspects of reading these comics is trying to tease apart the original characters and references. Some of the more awesome characters in this volume include: Dark Claw (Batman meets Wolverine), Super-Soldier (Superman meets Captain America), and Lobo the Duck (Howard the Duck meets Lobo).(less)
In the Amalgam Comics collections, the two modern American comics giants, DC and Marvel, "mash-up" their characters, major and minor, for a whole mess...moreIn the Amalgam Comics collections, the two modern American comics giants, DC and Marvel, "mash-up" their characters, major and minor, for a whole mess o'fun. One of the most enjoyable aspects of reading these comics is trying to tease apart the original characters and references. Some of the more awesome characters in this volume include Nick Fury's right-hand man, Bruce Wayne; Thanoseid (Thanos meets Darkseid, duh); Speed Demon (Ghost Rider meets Etrigan—hell yeah!); and Spider-Boy.
**spoiler alert** I really wanted to like this alternate history version of Batman, set in a theocratic America with its origins in Oliver Cromwell's...more**spoiler alert** I really wanted to like this alternate history version of Batman, set in a theocratic America with its origins in Oliver Cromwell's Commonwealth of England. Unfortunately, as noted in Sam Quixote's review, the plot is "mind-numbingly boring." Father Bruce Wayne loses his religion as he discovers his parents were murdered, not by a lone nut, but by a politico-religious conspiracy at the highest levels. Lots of familiar DC heroes are introduced and killed off along the way. I guess this could have been worse—it could have been the other Batman/Holy Terror.(less)
Joss Whedon simply can do no wrong. It takes the best of the 1970s Uncanny X-Men, the ones who initially drew me in, and updates it brilliantly for a...moreJoss Whedon simply can do no wrong. It takes the best of the 1970s Uncanny X-Men, the ones who initially drew me in, and updates it brilliantly for a new generation of readers. Hopefully we'll see Whedon's vision of the X-Men in cinema, since his Avengers was hands-down the best superhero flick yet.(less)
McKean's illustrations here are in top form, disturbing yet precise and coherent, unlike some of his later, more indulgent work. Gaiman's storytelling...moreMcKean's illustrations here are in top form, disturbing yet precise and coherent, unlike some of his later, more indulgent work. Gaiman's storytelling is pretty strong too, especially considering how early in his career this was written, around a quarter-century ago. I enjoyed the way that the character's re-enenvisioned back-story connected seamlessly with "the Green" storyline/cosmology that Alan Moore had invented for his resurrected Swamp Thing, and Gaiman's resolution of his story arc, with beauty triumphing over beastliness, was a welcome, if not entirely believable, twist. According to the Great and Powerful Wiki, Black Orchid's "innovative take on superhero storytelling and the fine-art quality of the illustrations paved the way for the creation of DC's Vertigo Comics imprint," and with the gift of hindsight it it easy to see why. (less)