The Universe is a Green Dragon, A Cosmic Creation Story by Brian Swimme and published by Bear and Company Publishing in 2001. I must have read it about five times, on my own and with others who have found it as inspiring as I do. I suggested it would be a very suitable read over summer on what we hope might be long days of sunshine on beach, countryside, or garden. It’s a short book, only 170 pages long but filled with an understanding of the story of the universe that I feel is sure to set hearts on fire.
Brian Swimme is a cosmologist with the soul of a mystic and poet so that a book that sets out the powers at the heart of the universe of which we are all a part is never dull or for that matter academic. Rather it gives us an insight into this universe and our own place within it, making sense for me anyway of much traditional theology and the God who is beyond explanations and anthropomorphisms. It is written in the form of a dialogue between Thomas, named in honour of Thomas Berry, the Redemptorist theologian or geologian as he liked to call himself, who believed that religion must now reinterpret itself in the light of the story of the universe and Youth who while representing humanity reminds us that “the human species is the youngest, freshest, most immature, newest species of all the advanced life forms in the planet.”
Brian Swimme claims to be an unbeliever and yet he is in awe at the wonders of the universe, is responding in love to what he calls the Ultimate Mystery from which all beings emerge, the Divinity of Being, the Life that is beyond life. He wrote the book in response to a challenge from Thomas Berry who asked him to tell the story of the universe “but tell it with a feel for its music.” He does this magnificently. To read this book is to be fascinated by our universe and take a “step into a wild love affair” with life. It is the kind of book that I wish I could eat so that I could digest its content and language and so make it part of me. It’s a book I would want everyone to read, especially those involved in environmental issues. I have been to many events about the environment and climate change. Often the content is overpowering and too many facts to take in and the approach is what I would call a ‘fix it’ one. I’ve given up going to ‘fix it’ talks and yet I know that concern for the environment is crucial and that human beings seem to be on a crash course with the universe. Covid seemed to give us the opportunity to reconsider how we related to our environment and yet once the danger was passed, we returned to business as usual, seemingly using the earth’s resources unthinkingly, flying all over the world, talking of progress as though resources are unlimited.
We do need to care for the earth but I feel we will only do that when we fall in love with life, when we understand our part in the great evolution of being, when we understand that our origins go back to that moment of creative activity which we might call the Big Bang and that each of us has been given form at this point in history to, in the words of Brian Swimme,
provide the earth with her heart and mind
feel the stupendous beauty and grandeur of the universe
awaken the earth to its own beauty power and future possibilities
discover the meaning and significance of ordinary things
embrace the creative potential poured into us by the universe
Can we do this? What if we could recite the Song of the Universe each morning and before every meeting re the environment? What if we declared our place within the whole evolutionary journey and expressed our desire to live for the well–being of all? Would this not help each of us make our own unique, authentic contribution to this great adventure of life and contribute to the awesome work of fashioning the future of our planet? And would the cosmos not be the better for it?