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Journey of the Universe

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An epic story of the emergence of the universe and of the community of life, with a new vision for how we might bring forth a vibrant Earth Community

Today we know what no previous generation the history of the universe and of the unfolding of life on Earth. Through the astonishing combined achievements of natural scientists worldwide, we now have a detailed account of how galaxies and stars, planets and living organisms, human beings and human consciousness came to be. And yet . . . we thirst for answers to questions that have haunted humanity from the very beginning. What is our place in the 14-billion-year history of the universe? What roles do we play in Earth's history? How do we connect with the intricate web of life on Earth? In Journey of the Universe Brian Thomas Swimme and Mary Evelyn Tucker tell the epic story of the universe from an inspired new perspective, weaving the findings of modern science together with enduring wisdom found in the humanistic traditions of the West, China, India, and indigenous peoples. The authors explore cosmic evolution as a profoundly wondrous process based on creativity, connection, and interdependence, and they envision an unprecedented opportunity for the world's people to address the daunting ecological and social challenges of our times. Journey of the Universe transforms how we understand our origins and envision our future. Though a little book, it tells a big story—one that inspires hope for a way in which Earth and its human civilizations could flourish together. This book is part of a larger project that includes a documentary film, an educational DVD series, and a website. For more information, please consult the website, journeyoftheuniverse.org.

192 pages, Hardcover

First published April 19, 2011

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Brian Swimme

29 books61 followers

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5 stars
174 (35%)
4 stars
179 (36%)
3 stars
90 (18%)
2 stars
33 (6%)
1 star
15 (3%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 50 reviews
601 reviews17 followers
June 22, 2013
I found this book very irritating, and did not enjoy reading it. I was curious, so I looked at others' reviews of it, and found some absolutely gushing ones, especially on Amazon. Clearly, others disagree with me!

Why did I find it so disagreeable? First, the language, which others apparently have found so "poetic", I found overly flowery and rather pompous -- in a word, gushing. One Goodreads review said "On page 31 I was ranting at the text's 'preciousness'." Amen! Only with me, that ranting reached its peak in the last two or three pages.

A particularly gushing review on Amazon says "This book is written at a level which kids in their early teens could easily assimilate." and goes on to say that the book should be standard part of school curriculum across the globe. I disagree. The book refers to many things without prior explanation (leptons, quite early in the book, for example). It flits far too lightly over many topics without sufficient context or explanation. And the language is perhaps too erudite for the typical teenager. I do agree that the topics in this book should be in standard school curricula across the globe, but not this book's presentation.

Some specific items irritated me too. For example, in the chapter on how stars form and evolve (entitled, preciously, "The Emanating Brilliance of Stars"), the authors talk about how the force of gravity attempts to pull all the matter of a star together, while nuclear fusion resists that gravitational pull. They use the term "seething disequilibrium" to describe this balance of forces; to me, "seething equilibrium" would be more accurate -- but perhaps that's not poetic enough?

Another specific: The authors use the word "creativity" in contexts (stars, universe, evolution, etc.) where it just didn't seem appropriate. "Creativity", to me, implies some kind of conscious thought. The authors make grandiose metaphors comparing the actions of the universe, stars, solar system, earth's evolution, etc. with human actions. Poetic, maybe, but to my mind meaningless.

Towards the end of the book, the authors essentially proselytize about how humans are destroying our own ecological system -- a view I share. However, I even found their language in this area irritating, and in no way persuasive to those on the political right who deny that this is happening. (But then, perhaps, no rational argument would work on them?)

Reading this book made me remember a quote from Paul Dirac (an admittedly very strange fellow The Strangest Man: The Hidden Life of Paul Dirac, Mystic of the Atom):

In science one tries to tell people, in such a way as to be understood by everyone, something that no one ever knew before. But in the case of poetry, it's the exact opposite!

I know some people on the humanities side who find this somehow offensive, but I am sympathetic to this view. Perhaps that is one reason why I did not like this book.
Profile Image for Peter O'Brien.
171 reviews7 followers
May 12, 2017
"Our human destiny is to become the heart of the universe that embraces the whole of the Earth community. We are just a speck in the universe, but we are brings with the capacity to feel comprehensive compassion in the midst of an ocean of intimacy" - page 115

Journey of the Universe is precisely that, an account of the universe's odyssey from the big bang right up to the present day, as based on the latest scientific understanding of how the cosmos has formed.

Swimme and Tucker largely adopt the overview of Big History in how they take us through each of the phases of the universe's growth and each of the major turning points of human development and recorded history; this approach makes for a very a succinct and enjoyable story that has all the makings of a great myth... except it is real!

The book is a very short read, only 131 pages, and the prose, while overly poetic, is also equally simplistic, and it is clear to see that this book was written for anyone to enjoy. Journey of the Universe is designed to open peoples' minds up to a bigger picture that is relevant to each and everyone of us.

The point of this book is to, firstly, cultivate a better understanding of how the term 'nature' applies to everything that is present in the universe and how human beings are just another part of that natural system - we are both a lucky product and increasingly we are becoming care takers of this natural system.

However , secondly, this book has been written with the express goal of cultivating proactive and compassionate human beings who are fully aware of the ecological damage the human race is causing the world and how that damage is in turn detrimentally effecting human beings.

Ultimately, Journey of the Universe is a very convincing and heart felt plea to be ecologically conscious human beings who do our utmost to change our patterns of behaviour and systems of operation in order to live in harmony with nature, to fully appreciate that nature and to be an essential part of that nature.

We are all part of the same journey and will continue to be a part of this journey for a very long time to come, but only if we heed the warning of this book and start putting into practice its vision of a united Earth community fully aware of the universe around them and how they are the caretakers of that universe.
Profile Image for Jemma.
10 reviews
December 27, 2022
Bought it for a class next semester but then the professor changed reading list. Good. I’m ok with it.
Profile Image for Kristine Brancolini.
193 reviews34 followers
February 3, 2018
Journey of the Universe got off to a slow start for me. I was thinking that this is a fascinating recitation of what philosopers and scientists have revealed about our universe, but what's the point? Where is it going? A short book, only 118 pages, with 45 pages of appendices, notes, and bibliography, Swimme and Tucker's book accompanies a documentary television program they produced for PBS. Swimme and Tucker recount the origins of the universe, the galaxies, our galaxy, the planets, our planet, life on Earth, evolution, and so on. About halfway through the book, I watched the documentary of the same name and the book benefitted from the visual complement. And I got a sneak peek at "the point." The point is that in the 13.7 billion year history of the universe, the 4.45 billion year history of our planet, and the 2.6 million year evolution of human beings, we are no longer a benign part of the process; humans -- especially those of us in industrialized countries -- have become the agents of destruction. It's not a novel message, but I admit that it is powerful in the succinct retelling of the long story of how we got here. The authors offer hope that we can change course and stop destroying the planet, but it's sobering to think that after billions of years of moving forward, we may actually be moving backward.
Profile Image for Saira Priest.
Author 7 books7 followers
March 16, 2019
This book is an important and easy read for people of all ages. It brings us up to date how we got where we are. I believe the deeper call to action is to recognize that we can consciously help co-create our future. Just as the recent past has been shaped by humans, the destiny of our future and therefore responsibility may also be largely in Humanity’s hands. I love the language used in this book. It speaks science to the heart and so tells us how it relates to us.
Profile Image for Simon.
121 reviews4 followers
July 31, 2013
I'm no scientist but found it easy to follow, interesting and helped deepen my respect for the interconnectedness of life on earth. It also helped remind me that we would do well to leave our world a better place for generations who follow us.
Profile Image for Maggie.
352 reviews5 followers
December 8, 2020
Interesting book. Not really deeply scientific, more so relating basic scientific concepts to broader inspirational ideas about birth, death, and our place in the universe. Not particularly inspiring to me, but could be a lot more meaningful to someone who’s much more “in tune” with their connection to the universe.
Profile Image for Ann.
311 reviews7 followers
June 3, 2017
This little book presents a kind of cosmology: a history of the universe, focused on the Earth and the role of humans. The major thesis, the telling of the human story, is an interesting blend of religion and science which takes both seriously. This telling makes sense of how many of the processes involved are nested one within another and how this blending is helpful in telling and understanding our story. Despite some errors -- the innermost core of the Earth is not liquid but solid and trilobite eyes were not made of calcite crystals, only the lenses were -- this book is an important beginning of assessing from where we've come, where we are now, and where we are headed. The book is a slender volume which will get you thinking. Highly recommended.

Note: The book has been made into a film and Yale University offers a course based on this book through Coursera.org (See: http://journeyoftheuniverse.com/).
Profile Image for Nancy.
853 reviews18 followers
May 7, 2015
I'm not actually sure what this book was setting out to do. Is it a book about philosophy? Science? Astronomy? Climate change? Self-help even? The sad thing is, it is not really any of them. There were a few interesting tidbits of information, but most of the book was so caught up in flowery, unnecessary language that it actually didn't really say very much. I think it lost me about the point it started talking about the desires and passions of spiders. Add to that some very random comments about whale people and bird people, and I wondered what I was doing reading it.
Profile Image for Darceylaine.
518 reviews3 followers
February 7, 2013
Meh. Kind of a watered down version of Swimme's "The Universe Story." A lot of money for not very much book. Still, if you haven't been exposed to Swimme's work before this is a good introduction. In general I support the mission of their project, I just wish this book had offered more to those of us who are already following their work.
Profile Image for Daphne.
571 reviews66 followers
November 3, 2015
This one was way too simplistic and shallow to hold my attention or interest me. I've read too many astronomy books to not expect way more substance and original perspectives from the ones I pick up these days. This book had neither. :(
Profile Image for Richard.
607 reviews15 followers
October 24, 2021
Apparently I’m in the minority but I thought this was a terrible book. I was looking for a science book that would explain some cosmology to my grandkids but found a terribly written book instead.

As an example, “Why are we so fascinated by the stars? Some of our ancestors thought stars were gods. Still others thought the stars were angels pouring forth virtue upon the Earth. Contemporary scientists refer to stars as giant balls of gas.”

This reads like a kid’s letter home from camp.

I gave up reading this book about halfway through. While there are some interesting facts the writing made it impossible to continue.
Profile Image for Max Potthoff.
75 reviews9 followers
January 5, 2018
While it's hard to review this book in relation to other more dense deep-dives of environmental history, this is a tremendously important text as a guiding cosmological map in our atomized and modern world. It is a direct antidote to the Bannon-esque vision of life on earth. It's hard to remind yourself on a daily basis just how truly bananas and rare that it is we are here at all. That anything is here at all. On our best days, our society values rationality and progress. This book argues that paradigm in and of itself is limiting to a vision of the world buoyed by wonder.
160 reviews10 followers
November 11, 2019
A short and accessible read yet one with an ambitious goal, to reorient the place and role of the human within the cosmos. Topically categorized as "Science/Religion," it strongly inhabits the forward slash between the two and thus is likely to meet with detractors from both fields.

Ultimately, it is an attempt to introduce the beginnings of a new story, informed by both scientific discoveries and subjective human experience, as a means of offering an exit route from the death spiral of modernity. I was inspired and moved by it and feel it merits serious consideration and engagement.
103 reviews
August 9, 2020
This excellent book helps to place humanity within the great unfolding of events in the universe and helps to explain why each of those events, including our own is special. Despite what that means from a cosmological standpoint it is not preachy in what that means. It celebrates human invention and creation, including religion, and puts us both as the writers and the clay on the mankind's journey through the universe.
Profile Image for Rick Hribko.
181 reviews
March 8, 2018
Even though this was a book I was forced to read in a week for school, I liked it. It made me think of my footprint on the natural world and how I could start to reduce it. It filled me with childlike wonder as it described how the universe was born and how life came to be. The timeline at the end...priceless for a Social Studies teacher.
Author 2 books11 followers
April 8, 2020
Fantastic. I highly recommend this to everyone—it's short, and written very clearly, and easy to read, yet sums up the whole history of the universe. I got a very very deep transmission, as the authors draw incredible parallels of universal patterns throughout time and space, from quark lepton interactions up to humans. Can't recommend enough.
20 reviews
October 24, 2018
Enjoyed reading

I enjoyed that the book concluded with optimism regarding the future of humanity and the likelihood that humans will discover their purpose in the universe. No mention is made of God, but that the universe itself has brought us this far, and can be trusted.
Profile Image for Greg.
249 reviews
October 26, 2021
I'm working on a photo essay on the subject of deep time and the implications for human behavior. I found this book to have some good raw material for this concept. While mostly a science book, I found some of the language is lovely and poetic.
Profile Image for Adam.
8 reviews4 followers
December 30, 2017
Just what I needed after a hard year: cosmic and hopeful.
Author 5 books1 follower
December 13, 2019
A wonderful & comprehensible, well-told book about the origins of the universe, life, metaphysics and our place amidst science and cosmic evolution. Highly recommended.
Profile Image for Arda Çokak.
33 reviews
March 6, 2020
İyi bir başlangıç kitabı. Bu tarz konularda pek araştırmadıysanız iyi gelecektir. Sonda tüm olaylar kronolijik olarak sıralanmış o çok hoşuma gitti.
Profile Image for Rabeet.
16 reviews
June 11, 2020
A beautiful mystical interpretation of Science. Liking this book would be pretty subjective because it is unlike most science. Overall a 4.5.
1,052 reviews11 followers
September 13, 2020
Scientific review of what science now knows about the history of the universe. Not near as inspiring and thoughtful as his green dragon book... Not recommended
Displaying 1 - 30 of 50 reviews

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