About a year ago my friend Jane, unknowingly, presented me with a challenge as she gave me a little ‘world pin’. She is part of a group about which I know only that they have created and distribute this lovely little lapel pin of planet earth with its oceans and continents. In our conversation she casually said, “Just what is the world? . . . the world, the earth, the planet, is it all the same?” I think I responded with something like “well not exactly”.
I went on to expound (yes, I do do that!) about Teilhard de Chardin and his explanation of the formation of the earth’s layers that evolved over an incalculable span of time; first there coalesced the Barysphere and Lithosphere—the metal core and rocky crust; next, those layers were overlaid with the Atmosphere and Hydrosphere—air and water; which were the necessary precursors for the Biosphere—all life forms. Over eons of time, an array of vegetation and animal life slowly appeared, advancing in form from simple to complex. Teilhard defined that as the ‘law of complexity-consciousness’, which drives evolution to ever reach for greater intricacy and more freedom by complexifying nervous systems and increasing consciousness. The process ultimately brought forth the rational and reflective creature—the human species. This wasn’t just ‘another species’ but the very axis and arrow of evolution, adding a new layer to the planet. That layer, Teilhard named the Noosphere—the thinking layer. With thought and freedom, human choices have shaped the emerging world in which we live: a world of buildings, roads and machines; a world of languages, music and arts; a world of laws, institutions and philosophies . . .
Evolution is on-going change. Only humans have the ability to initiate change, both within the self and in the world they inhabit. It is imperative that we awaken to the power humanity has to determine the destiny of this awesome interacting system—our world.
Our planet is an object in a solar system that orbits the sun in harmony with other planets—Jupiter, Mars, Venus, etc. At the planetary level it is but one of many similar objects. It differs however, because of being surrounded by continually re-circulating air and water, thus providing what is necessary to support life. The interaction of these elements is a unique process, fully integrated with the myriad life forms animating our earth. Just as the Biosphere changed the planet into the living earth (fondly referred to as ‘Mother Earth’), the newest layer, the Noosphere, changed it into the world of thought and action we occupy.
Over the past year my thoughts kept returning to the challenge of that question, ‘are they the same?’ I now realize I found the question so significant because it points to the basic God/human interaction—together we co-create the world.
When I speak of God, I’m not referring to a remote Being far away in the heavens who counts sins and grants favors. Knowledge of the nature of God is of a dimension beyond human comprehension. When I speak of God I mean that dynamic Mystery beyond my understanding that brought order out of chaos. I look at the known evidence of life and the magnificent balance of the uncountable elements necessary for the universe to exist—yet there it is and here we are! So I say, “Thank you, Mystery God” and I think of the wonder of human consciousness that can seek Truth, Justice and Love and can express love, compassion . . . and hope.
The evolutionary process is still unfolding; the God contribution has been set before us, ours is underway as we explore our capacity for both good and evil. We’re given this playground free and clear, no strings attached. Our ultimate challenge is for the human family to learn to act cooperatively in supporting the preservation of our common home. We can make it flourish as it was meant to, or we can destroy it by our collective violence, greed and selfish choices, so reducing it to a dead planet left empty in its orbit around the sun.
So my friend’s question about ‘sameness’ can be answered both yes and no. Either word refers to the same whole unit, but the world comes into being thru the God/human interaction. We’ve been given planet-earth, flourishing with life and potential; and too, we’ve been called to consciousness and freedom to do with it what we will. Ultimately ‘our world’ is our answer to Mystery God.