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Capitalistic karma: reinterpreting reincarnation

Walking up in the mountains outside Kathmandu I contemplated the connection between the world’s inequalities today, the actions of one’s ancestors, and the idea of karma and reincarnation that I had been reading about in some books on the Eastern Religions.

Be they the ancestors who split from the group to discover new worlds fifty thousand years ago, or be they the innovators of new technologies that won them last century’s battles, the connection is pretty clear… and I wondered, is this what the yogis are talking about when they talk about karma? Are the people of today the reincarnations of ancestors, manifested through the processes of material, genetic and education inheritance? The closer we get to a person, the more the other embodies our ideas. If we, say, write a book and disperse our ideas, are we, on some level, reincarnating ourselves through the people that these ideas influence? Are our children simply more direct reincarnations of ourselves as they gain more of our energy through our genes and through the time we spend with them?

At the end of the day we are all responsible for the consequences of our own actions, be they consequences experienced our own lifetime, or in that of our children and childrens’ childrens’ childrens’ lifetimes. If we do bad to another person, animal, or to our environment, be it in our lifetime or in sometime in the distant future, the universe eventually balances itself out… Is this, in a wider sense, our “karma”? Could the cycle of birth-death-rebirth that the yogis talk about be less about a separate soul reincarnating (for example, that if you kill a bee in this life you will come back as an bee in your next life), and actually be describing the process of evolution (for example, if many people kill many bees, humanity will have to adapt to a world with less flowers and foods)?

When the caste system tells people that they have been born into their caste as a consequence of their actions in a past life I typically respond (in my head) with “what a load of bullocks!” But, when viewed from this understanding of karma and reincarnation, this idea starts to make sense… Could poverty actually be the karmic result of the decisions of one’s ancestors?

When I compare the capitalist system to the caste system I can’t help but appreciate the open opportunities capitalism provides. Sure it’s not a perfect system with the opportunities it provides not exactly equal (for example, children in wealthy families are sure to have more opportunities than less wealthy families) but on the other side I also think that if a person dedicates their life to provide such opportunities for their children, isn’t it fair that this child benefits from their parent’s hard work? Is such their good fortune, their parent or grandparent’s karma?


Or is maybe this just my wishful thinking, in hope of justifying the unjustifiable, I’m not quite sure. Karma and reincarnation aside, as I consider the advantages and disadvantages of capitalism and I wonder: if you take away the ability to transfer wealth to your children, will people still be motivated to innovate and work hard? At least in this system, children in the less wealthy family still get a decent education and decent amount of opportunity. While life may not be as easy as it is for the child born in the wealthy family, the challenges this presents can actually an opportunity for even more growth for that individual, and at least no one is completely left out of the system and being condemned to be an untouchable for all their future generations.

It is starting to seem to me that as we reincarnate ourselves, from generation to generation of cell to plant to animal to self-aware human, our creativity is growing, our sense of morality and ethics is deepening, and our capability to consider the future of the whole planet is expanding. And so I wonder, if we continue collective learn from each other and from the past, what incredible species will the reincarnates of humanity be like in the future?

Picture notes

Photographer: Edwina Hughes.

Taken at my sister’s wedding at Craigiburn in Bowral on the weekend, this photo doesn’t really have anything to do with this blog entry although I guess in a way it represents the passing on of traditions and possibly the beginning of a new generation of Bennetts. And it’s nice to share considering it was such an incredible wedding, very fun, my sister looked GORGEOUS, and my new brother-in-law spunky… Congratulations guys!

The evolution of “Man’s Best Friend”

I stole my sister’s schipperke Bella for two days of doggie companionship – it’s pretty clear why they say that a dog is a man’s best friend. Not only are dogs adorable and fluffy, they (especially Bella) give you cuddles and snuggles when you ask, they run and have fun with you, they don’t hide what they are thinking and feeling, and best of all they love you unconditionally.

This morning we walked around Rushcutter’s Bay amongst many other doggies and dog owners, and I started wondering… How did dogs evolve to become our friends? When did it all begin??? What breeds are purebreds and what breeds did we create? Are dogs, with all their human-like qualities, a good example of evolution in action?

Jumping the gun on my Big History series, but with Bella by my side my curiosity won me over and I sought out some answers.

Briefly to provide some context, wolves, foxes, cats AND HUMANS had a common ancestor around 75-million years ago. Primates (including monkeys, apes and us) broke away from the our mammal brothers and sisters in the Carnivore group (ie meat eaters) – which from a common ancestor known as the Miacid broke into the Caniformia subgroup that includes the Canidae family (coyotes, dogs, foxes, jackals, and wolves) and families with other fancy names that include pandas, skunks, racoons, seals, sea lions, badgers, and bears; and the Feliformia subgroup that includes Felidea (cats, lions, tigers etc) as well as other families of hyenas and mongoose.[1]

Dogs are domesticated wolves that diverged from their wolf ancestors around 15000 years ago. ALL breeds of dogs are connected to humans – be they a result of “natural” breeding in response to their environment as it changed in the course of human civilisation, or through “selective” breeding with random hybrids like labradoodles a recent example.

Breeds classified as “purebred” are done so according to documented lineages – a tradition that began at the English Kennel Club in 1873. The breeds with the fewest genetic differences from wolves tend to be the natural bred ones, which are more considered “ancient dog breeds” – eg Afghan Hound (Afghanistan), Chow Chow (China), Lhasa Apso (Tibet), Pekingese (China), Shar Pei (China), Shih Tzu (Tibet), Tibetan Terrier (Tibet), Saluki (Fertile Crescent), Basenji (DR Congo), Akita Inu (Japan), Shiba Inu (Japan), Samoyed (Russia), Siberian Husky (Russia), and Alaskan Malamute (Alaska).

How did they come to be our friends? Actually there are different theories, but no one really knows. It could have happened as long as 100,000 years ago, with a cooperative relationship developing between our species: wolves hanging around campsites for safety, food scraps, and greater chances of breeding, while humans gaining improved sanitation from the dogs cleaning up the scraps, extra warmth and security alerts when other animals/people approached the site.

And from cooperative hunting in the forest, to cooperative hunting for mates in parks (everyone knows its easier to pick up when you have a cute dog with you wink wink) we have found our new best friend.

But how does a big mean ugly wolf turn into a adorable little puppy? I guess it’s not unlike masculine hunters turning into metro-sexuals – through less contact with the actual kill and physically adapting to whatever (they believe) will increase their chances of spreading their seed. The cuter the dog and the more socially savvy, the more scraps they get and the less need to hunt and kill.

The main physical differences between wolves and dogs evolved in the last 12,000 years since the introduction of agriculture, humans settled and (at least some civilisations) started to look after dogs as one of their own. This continued right through to more recent  tailoring dogs for our companionship needs – Paris Hilton toy dogs are a prime example.

How can a dog stay small forever. With a process called “pedomorphosis” or “juvenification” – a process that causes adults of a species to retain traits previously seen only in juveniles – that is, somehow, adults still look like babies. This isn’t a man-made process, it’s a natural way of evolution for example the flatness of the human face compared with other primates.

I wonder, with today’s obsession with youth – from magazines to beauty creams – will we one day in the near future genetically modify ourselves to keep our juvenile qualities for life? Is this something we would want to do? I’d like to say no – that I want to age gracefully – but heck, to look 25 for the next 100 years wouldn’t be so bad…

I have sidetracked completely and really I have to get back to writing and preparing for India (less than 2 weeks and counting) so I will leave this interesting piece of research there. All in all I have to say that besides having to put up with their farts and pick up their pooh, I love dogs and I wish my rental contract didn’t forbid me or else I would buy my own little Bella for myself.


Another good article:,9171,1921614-4,00.html

The parable of Easter Island

When I was in South America, one place I missed was Easter Island. If you want to go here I believe flying LAN Chile is the way to go as they give you a free stop over if you’re flying from Australia. We flew Aerolinias Argentinas (one thing I hope to NEVER do again) and instead I got to see New Zealand Airport. You live and learn… Moving on… I want to tell you why Easter Island interested me so much.

Easter Island, or Rapa Nui (the native name), was discovered by a Dutch ship on Easter Sunday in 1722 inhabited by around 3,000 people in war over scarce food resources and surrounded by over 600 of the six-meter high stone statues (that occupy every photo and postcard that leaves the island).

How did it get like this? Well the first settlement on the island was by probably one boatload of 20-30 people 1,500 years ago, but as populations increased and became separate villages, competition arose in the form of ‘a recognizably modern form: competitive monument building.’[1]

Building and transporting the statues involved chopping down trees and more and more trees were cut down until they were all gone ‘quite suddenly, the society collapsed’ as without wood they ‘could no longer fish, make cloth, or build houses, so their diets became impoverished… [and] deforestation also led to erosion, reducing soil fertility and crop yields…’ so basically ‘population growth and increasing consumption of resources, driven by political and economic competition, led to sudden environmental and social collapse.’[1]

As David Christian notes, ‘the most horrifying aspect of this story is that the islanders and their leaders must have seen it coming. They must have known as they felled the last trees that they were destroying their own future and that of their children. And yet they cut the trees down.’[1]

What do you think: ‘Does Rapa Nui provide an appropriate parable for thinking about the larger trajectory of human history?’[1]



[1] David Christian, Maps of Time.  pp. 472-475. David sourced this story from Clive Pointing in Green History of the World (1992)

Top picture:

Moai at Rano Raraku |Source = from en:Image:Moai Rano raraku.jpg taken during January 2004

Second picture:

Photo made by de:Benutzer:Makemake and uploaded by him on 18. Dec 2004

Both pictures are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 3.0 License. In short: you are free to share and make derivative works of the file under the conditions that you appropriately attribute it, and that you distribute it only under a license identical to this one. Official license

Big History Blog Series: Ch2 – Star Formation and Another Big Explosion

To recap, in our first chapter of this Big History Blog Series, we learned that the Big Bang theory is based on the observation that our universe is expanding and hence that it must have once been smaller. Winding back time we imagined the infinitesimally small point of singularity. At the point in time we can call the beginning of time, we went from nothing or a something that lays beyond our understanding, to the existence of quarks and the laws of gravity and electromagnetism. This combination caused quarks to explode and become protons and electrons. Protons and electrons in turn combined to make hydrogen and helium atoms.

In chapter two of the Story of Us, we will look at how we transformed from hydrogen and helium atoms, to bunch more types of elements that make up all the atomic matter and energy in our universe.

First let’s put atomic matter and energy in perspective.


You can see in the diagram above, that only 0.4% of our universe is atomic matter and atomic energy that comprises stars, planets, and lifeforms such as ourselves. Most of our universe is dark energy and dark matter, two hypothetical forms of energy and matter that are largely undetectable but are inferred from their gravitational effects and from the increasing rate of the universe’s expansion. (Basically, I gather, dark energy and dark matter are names given to the who-knows-what and the who-knows-how that permeates and permutes the incomprehensibly huge universe.)

Okay, so now that we know what tiny slice of the universe the rest of Our Story is located in, let us continue. How did we get from a point of singularity to the complexities we observe around us today?

The first step (about 200 years after the Big Bang) was the formation of stars, a creation we owe to gravity.

After millions of years of floating around in clouds hydrogen and helium, gravity pulled some clouds together. The huge clouds contracted and heated causing atoms inside to move faster and collide. Hydrogen atoms fused to create pure energy – creating massive atomic bombs – which became the first stars.

Again thanks to gravity, these stars collected into galaxies (like our Milky Way), which collected into “clusters” of galaxies, and the universe kept expanding and creating new clusters further apart, as it still continues to do today.

The second step in this process of increasing complexity was the appearance of new elements, like carbon and iron, to which we can thank the death of large stars.

When hydrogen atoms ran out the center of stars collapsed, temperatures escalated and now it was the helium atoms turn to fuse together to create elements up to iron, number twenty-six (ie it has twenty-six protons in its nucleus.)

The third step (probably within a billion years of the Big Bang) was the explosion of stars who had new elements floating around inside – asupernova”.

Out of this ‘colossal explosion’ (as David Christian calls it), the supernova gave us another new sixty-six elements, giving us the periodic table (remember it from science class?) with ninety-two elements for the universe to now play with.

In sum, the elements from hydrogen to uraniumall our elements are made from different combinations of protons and electrons, which are all made up of quarks pulled together by gravity. These different combinations were created by the explosion of dying stars that contained elements from the death other stars that came from clouds of hydrogen and helium pulled together by gravity.

Where did the law of gravity come from? Who knows! But we should “thank God” that it did, because without law of gravity no-thing would exist.

And so, children of the stars, I bid you goodnight and leave you with this time-line. One billion years down, just thirteen billion years to go. Have a nice weekend!!!



David Christian, This Fleeting World: A short history of humanity, Berkshire Publishing Group (Massachusetts 2008), pp. xx-xxi.

Picture credits:

Dark matter pie – pulled from wikimedia commons and which originally came from NASA online.

Periodic table – electrical (

Cosmic time-line – I’m not sure where I got this, I found it in my old computer files, so if anyone knows its source please let me know.

How to create a world war

creation2Among my Internet surfing I came across a “creationist” website – the belief that the world is around 6000 years old – a figure derived from tracing back the genealogy in the bible from Jesus to Adam, and the seven-day creation. This belief is growing so much that more than 40% of Americans believe this and do not believe in evolution!

Obviously this creation story clashes with the Story of the Universe I am presenting in my Big History Blog Series. I think it is always important to read other views with the most open mind you can possibly have, and I have tried, but serious – this is pretty destructive stuff…

This website was advertising a book called:


“What do aliens, dinosaurs and gay marriage have in common?

They are all part of the culture wara war between two worldviews…

How are we to respond when we hear of the latest “argument” for evolution? How can we prepare our children to face the evolutionary indoctrination of our public schools and universities? What are we to make of “Christian” organizations who teach the big bang and millions of years? How can we build a truly biblical worldview?

In this powerful book, you will find ammunition for the war: answers to some of the most common arguments for evolution, analyses of Christian compromise and a call for a return to true biblical authority.”

This is a quote from a corresponding article:

“This story of origins is entirely fiction. But sadly, many people claim to believe the big bang model. It is particularly distressing that many professing Christians have been taken in by the big bang, perhaps without realizing its atheistic underpinnings. They have chosen to reinterpret the plain teachings of Scripture in an attempt to make it mesh with secular beliefs about origins.

There are several reasons why we cannot just add the big bang to the Bible. Ultimately, the big bang is a secular story of origins. When first proposed, it was an attempt to explain how the universe could have been created without God. Really, it is an alternative to the Bible; so it makes no sense to try to “add” it to the Bible. Let us examine some of the profound differences between the Bible and the secular big bang view of origins.

The Bible teaches that God created the universe in six days ( Genesis 1; Exodus 20:11). It is clear from the context in Genesis that these were days in the ordinary sense (i.e., 24-hour days) since they are bounded by evening and morning and occur in an ordered list (second day, third day, etc.). Conversely, the big bang teaches the universe has evolved over billions of years.


The Bible says that Earth was created before the stars and that trees were created before the sun.1 However, the big bang view teaches the exact opposite. The Bible tells us that the earth was created as a paradise; the secular model teaches it was created as a molten blob. The big bang and the Bible certainly do not agree about the past.

Many people don’t realize that the big bang is a story not only about the past but also about the future. The most popular version of the big bang teaches that the universe will expand forever and eventually run out of usable energy. According to the story, it will remain that way forever in a state that astronomers call “heat death.”2 But the Bible teaches that the world will be judged and remade. Paradise will be restored. The big bang denies this crucial biblical teaching.

See the full article here:

Some thoughts:

First of all I have to ask: wasn’t the book of Genesis written by Jews? And don’t Jews believe the Genesis story is MYTH? So what are these Christians thinking when they decide to interpret is as LITERAL???

Secondly, referring to the parts of the quote I have highlighted in red, this article appears to be highly manipulative propaganda. It appeals to people’s fear of death and offers a reward of eternal life – you have a choice: be a part of a universe that might one day, in billions of years, cease to exist; or be a Christian and live forever. But what of this choice is based on anything real?

If we are part of a universe that might one day cease to exist, maybe we should accept it and stop fearing it. Maybe it’s a good thing? Life is pretty good, but to live forever in the same consciousness would get pretty mundane. Especially if there this eternal life was somewhere that everything was perfect… urgh! Nope – I think “God” made a pretty good world with this play of opposing forces – it’ keeps life interesting. Change is great! Maybe we should enjoy the billions years this universe has left to offer. Now we are in a stage of expansion, one day the universe may contract and billions of years later start to expand again… who knows! It’s a pretty exciting idea, and at least it’s a real possibility as opposed to a fairytale told to make us feel good and turn our consciousness from creative and peaceful to one that is conforming and destructive …

Thirdly, this article polarizes non-believers and falsifies who they are and their motives. Maybe Christians who believe in evolution and not creationism are NOT “compromising” their religion – isn’t it possible that they are THINKING FOR THEMSELVES? Isn’t it possible that they are READING THE BIBLE IN THE CONTEXT THAT IT WAS WRITTEN? Isn’t it possible that “GOD” WANTED THE BIBLE TO CONTAIN MYTH, WHICH IS WHY GENESIS IS A MYTH???

I really cannot understand how people can abuse a historical book, cherry pick and take parts out of context, and use it to hate certain groups of society, to deny the dinosaurs, polarize worldview rather than look for the lessons that can be learned from each other, increasing tensions, and calling for war. Yep – that’s a great way to create a world war. Good one guys.

Big History Blog Series: Chapter 1 – The Big Bang

Once upon a time, in the land of Quantum Nothingness, there was a BIG BANG and an infinitesimally small something started to expand, possibly faster than the speed of light.

For some unknown but much talked about reason, matter in the form of quarks (the basic building blocks of protons and electrons) and dark matter (we don’t actually know what this is) appeared, and with it came two forces: gravity (that draws everything together) and electromagnetism (that draws opposites together and pushes the similar apart). At first this combination caused the quarks to annihilate themselves – turning into pure energy. It was from this hot chaotic mixture of quarks, energy, and electromagnetic and gravitational forces, came positive charged protons and negative charged electrons.

As the universe expanded it cooled and the protons and electrons joined to create the first atoms – Hydrogen atoms (made up of one proton and one electron) and Helium atoms (two protons and two electrons). These were electrically neutral and so they were no longer affected by electromagnetic radiation.

Cosmologists estimate the beginning of the expanding singularity, when measured in our earth-centric concept of time, to have occurred around 13.7 billion years ago. Since this time our universe has grown to contain 100 billion galaxies, which contains (taking a conservative number of 100 billion stars per galaxy) approximately 10 sextillion stars (10,000,000,000,000,000,000,000) – that’s more stars than grains of sand on earth. Traveling at the speed of light it would take 20 years to travel to our sun and 5 million-years to travel to the nearest star. Ok, you get the picture, our universe is huge! How we got from the first appearance of matter and energy, to this massive universe, will be the subject of chapter 2. For now let’s return to the Big Bang.

It seems it is at this point of singularity that we discover “the answer to the ultimate question of life, the universe and everything”. That would be NUMBER 42. What was the question again? (You’ve seen Hitchiker’s Guide to the Galaxy haven’t you?) What does the number 42 that mean??? Hmmm… absolutely nothing…?

For me, the “Ultimate Question” is: how the heck did something come from nothing? What caused “the big bang” to occur? And WHY? Scientists are yet to answer these questions.

Ok, so if we do not how or why the big bang occurred, then how do we know it actually happened?

1. Because we know our universe is expanding. Astronomers observe and measure other galaxies moving away from us – detecting it with the “absorption line” of frequencies in a light spectra. This is called a Red Shift (red light shows parts of the galaxy moving away while blue light shows objects moving closer to us.)

2. You can still actually see the CBR energy released about 380,000 years after the Big Bang. Turn on an old television set – the static you see is “CBR” – Cosmic Background Radiation.

3. The universe is still largely Hydrogen and Helium (99% of all atomic atoms); looking into the universe stars appear “younger”; also nothing seems to be older than around 13 billion years. (It is interesting to note that atomic matter is only a small slice of the universe – the rest of it is dark matter and dark energy.)

If something is getting bigger it must have previously been smaller, right? That’s the key logic behind the Big Bang. Winding back time we imagine our universe contracting back down to an infinitesimally small point of singularity.

Did something exist before this point of singularity? Maybe.

Does something exist outside all that we know exists? Maybe.

Maybe the universe we experience is version of “multiverse” – with all possibilities existing in universes sitting side by side.

Maybe Big Bangs are happening all the time – creating new universes in a space we will never know.

Maybe our universe is like a computer game programmed from inside another universe. Maybe a group of such programmers are competing to see whose universe self-destructs first. Maybe there’s just one programmer to whom some people call “God”.

Maybe the universe is “God”, continually going through a process of expansion and contraction – “God” breathing in, and “God” breathing out, with each breath taking billions or trillions of years.

We may speculate as much as we like, I do not believe I shall ever know these answers. Does that matter? Not to me. I would rather focus on what we do know. What do we know? We know that we are inside a beautiful expanding universe. We know we are a part of a magnificent process of increasing complexity, and the fact that we are intelligent enough to be aware of it, to observe it and discuss it, puts us in (if I do say so myself) the most exciting place any human has ever been.

An extra little interesting note on the Big Bang:

Attempts to observe the early stages of the big bang are occurring at The Hadron Collider on the border of France and Switzerland and also at Fermilab in Illinois – using “Accelerators” to make sub-atomic particles move at close to the speed of light, and smash together… what will this reveal? We have to wait and see.


David Christian, This Fleeting World: A short history of humanity, Berkshire Publishing Group (Massachusetts 2008), pp. xx-xxi.

Picture credits:

The Birth of the Universe, The Kingfisher Young People’s Book of Space, TIME Graphic by Ed Gabel.

Big History Blog Series: Introduction – Our Story

I wish to share with you a story: The Story of the Universe. My Story. Your Story. A True Story – well as true as true can be. Our Story has gone through many filters: of limited human knowledge developed through our limited human senses, mental constructions, and even our “impressive” technologies. Our Story, as I tell it, will be filtered through my personal perspectives, which have developed through my own past experiences, my limited education, and the general time pressures I face in writing such a narrative.

But this story, I believe, is an important one.

All societies throughout history have had a story of origins – generally using myth – to give a sense of who we are, where we have come from, and where we are going. Science and logical deduction has now replaced myth in our mental constructs, and so our story of origins must also be a scientific one.

The Story of Our Universe is an important story because it gives us a sense of identity that is not based on difference – different nationalities, races, religions, sex, or species – but is based on our intrinsic connection to the each other and our planet.

Each individual person may be small but each one of us is a valuable piece of an awe-inspiring entity of infinitely creative expanding puzzle – call it the Soul of the Universe, personify it as God, or talk about it as a complex combination of protons and electrons – whatever terms you wish to use doesn’t really make a difference as either way we can know we are part of an incredible process.

I share this story as I journey through David Christian’s Big History course at Macquarie University whilst reading a number of fantastic (albeit challenging) books on evolution, quantum physics and process theology. I have a feeling that a trip to India in May, will enlighten my understanding in different ways, and finally as I begin some kind of MPhil/PhD in July, the story will continue.

Our Story is about evolution, and the story itself is evolving. Our Story will always be held tentative to new insights and discoveries. Our human minds shall continue to expand, engaging with the gaps in Our Story, asking questions and seeking answers. As time progresses great thinkers, scientists and gurus will make profound realisations, each which shall bring us closer to the great unknowable “Truth” – an unachievable objective that shall always be our aim.

Our Story is about adaptation. Our Story is about process not results. Our Story is about “conscientization” – awareness of self-in-context, allowing for perception and renouncing all forms of mental, social and political oppression.

Through this journey I hope to understand more about our humble unknown beginnings, the awe-inspiring process of our evolution, the incredible birth of human self-reflective consciousness, and the relevance of these three factors on our lives today and into the future.

My key reference points for now are Prof. David Christian’s two books: Maps of Time and This Fleeting World, his lecture notes, Richard Dawkin’s The Ancestor’s Tale (audio book), Bill Bryson’s A Short History of Nearly Everything (audio book), Jared Diamond’s Guns, Germs and Steel, Garry Trompf In Search of Origins, John Polkinghorne’s Exploring Reality, and the late Charles Birch’s Biology and the Riddle of Life. Alongside another hundred or so titles from experts I’m yet to discover.

We will step through four stages: the cosmos, earth, life and humanity, each with probably fair few posts spread over a fairly long time as I learn the information, process it, and finally get around to sharing it with you. I will try to provide a rounded perspective that combines my (relatively limited) knowledge of the sciences, philosophy and religion. Please remember all “facts” remain tentative to new discoveries. The first chapter of our story – the “big bang” will be posted tomorrow 🙂

Picture credits:

I’m not sure where I got this artwork – I found it amongst my old computer files that I believe I took from random websites –  if anyone knows its source please let me know so I can credit them…

A Postmodern Grand-Narrative

Come with me on a journey through time and space… the mighty booooooshhhh! (If you haven’t seen The Mighty Boosh, do yourself a favour – watch it!)

Searching for a Postmodern Grand-narrative….

I deferred this semester’s uni in hope of getting a scholarship to support a research project starting mid-year. Although officially I’m not a student I’m still going to uni twice a week (only an hour each day) to attend the lectures of an undergrad subject – An Introduction to World History.  This subject is more than World History – it covers the history of the universe, or “BIG HISTORY” as it has been termed.

As always, there’s a little story behind this…

A couple of years ago, before I went back to uni, I discovered H.G. Wells wrote a book called The Outline of History published back in 1920. (And available for free online HERE) Why didn’t I know about this book? Why didn’t everyone learn history in one nice (even if long) interesting narrative?

One of the first subjects I did back at uni was Historiography – a fascinating look at the different ways we have reported history, throughout history. I discovered the answer to my question:

H.G. Wells wrote during the period of Modernity, a time where people believed that science could provide all the answers. A time where people believed religion was no longer necessary and through a grand-narrative of history and science we could discover our place in the world, and move toward a place of unity. And then came World War Two and the cookie crumbled.

Grand-narratives were rejected and the period of Postmodernity arrived. Postmodernity is a time ‘post-war, post-holocaust, post-colonial, post-gender, post-history, and, most important for the cultural critic’s enterprise, post-‘master narrative.’ [1]

History itself was almost rejected due to it’s bias to one-sided perspectives, political motivations, propaganda, faming of heroes, demonization of oppositions, and recording of themselves as drivers of history. Absolute truth does not exist. Objectivity is impossible.

Derrida says ‘the persistent search for a centre, a fundamental ground’, maintains a given structure in a ‘false state of immobility, of finality, of fixed truth.’ We should conceive structures without a centre, so we can see they are ‘open to interpretation without end, unconfined, unreduced, unfinalized, not continuous, not linear, where truth is never arrived at, is always involved in a play of differences that keep deferring its arrival, its full presence.’ [2]

My generation was born into this confusing mixture of rejection of grand-narratives, which for me was extra confusing when combined with a religious grand-narrative that had not quite been thought through… While one text book said that Australian Aborigines had lived here for over 30,000 years, our bible classes told us Adam and Eve lived around 6,000 years ago and that they were the first humans on earth. Okay….????

Then there’s Ancient Egypt and Ancient Sumeria – what child cares about ancient civilisations that appear not the least bit significant to their life? If History, Geography, and Science are taught as disjointed from each other, and taught in a way that puts you to sleep, what’s the point of school?

In hindsight I believe schools need to teach these subjects in connection to some form of grand-narrative, even if it’s a tentative one with known gaps, but something to engage with, to gain perspective of where each piece of knowledge fits into time and space, and most importantly, how this relates to my life today.

The subject I am studying this semester at uni is doing just that – providing an overview of all the essential details that compile to tell me who I am and what process I am a part of. Oh yeah, back to my story… how met the lecturer.

Somehow in looking for more recent historical works along the same line as H.G. Wells, I came a across a book called Maps of Time by Professor David Christian from the US. I ordered it on Amazon and after reading it I sent him an email telling him how much I enjoyed it. Incredibly he wrote back telling me he was in fact working on and off at Macquarie University in Sydney! Two years later and here I am, attending his lectures, and with him as an associate supervisor of my pending research project.

What is this research project, you ask? I’m asking myself the same question. I know it’s about narratives of identity and peace. I also think it’s about bridging the gap between science and religion through the narratives we tell. It’s also about panentheism and process theology and the philosophy of science and big history… argh!!! Lucky I have time to narrow the scope… somehow I know all these factors align.

Anyway, I’ll be sharing the journey on here. To begin with I’ll be sharing what I learn at these ultra-interesting lectures on super-novas and the beginnings of life on earth and milestones and paradigm shifts throughout our history.

To give you a quick overview of where we are going, check out this AWESOME little picture of world history in a flash bang 7 minutes!

Then buckle your seat belts and get ready to (over the next few years)…  journey with me through time and space…!!!


[1] Toulmin, S.E., Return to reason. 2001, Cambridge, Mass. ; London: Harvard University Press. p.1-5.

[2]  Derrida, J., Structure, Sign and Play in the Discourse of the Human Sciences. in Hutcheon, Linda and Natoli, Joseph P. A Postmodern reader 1993, Albany: State University of New York Press. p.224.