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Reply To: The Air We Breathe


James wrote, The idea of “Gaia” or Earth Mother principle would be one since we are now talking about the planet as a biological entity; (especially since the Coronavirus is a biological species and could be seen as an agent of change). ” I find my mind wrapped up around this as I keep thinking of both Joseph Campbell’s and Brian Swimme’s ideas of the “new myth.”


Earthrise is a symbol that is working its way slowly into our consciousness. One sees it in many places. CBS News used it for a long time on Walter Cronkite’s program. Strangely enough, it is being used — set afire, however — to publicize the movie “The Late Great Planet Earth.” That is a fire‐and‐brimstone account of the end of the world in literal biblical terms. That use of earthrise seems a good example of the resistance you describe to the space age and its central metaphor.

The sense of apocalypse is very widespread and I believe it is a rejection of this new age. That is why there is so much interest in disaster. It’s more than just the thrill of the movies. It is evidence of how deep the notion of the apocalyptic moment is. We hate ourselves so much that we take delight in the destruction of people. It is like reading the worst of the prophets in the Bible.


The mystical theme of the space age is this: The world, as we know it, is coming to an end. The world as the center of the universe, the world divided from the heavens, the world bound by horizons in which love is reserved for members of the in‐group: That is the world that is passing away. Apocalypse does not point to a fiery Armageddon but to the fact that our ignorance and our complacency are coming to an end. Our divided, schizophrenic world view, with no mythology adequate to coordinate our conscious and unconscious, that is what is coming to an end. The exclusivism of there being only one way in which we can be saved, the idea that there is a single religious group that is in sole possession of the truth, that is the world as we know it that must pass away. What is the Kingdom?

(Retrieved from:

After reading Jame’s thoughts and feelings about fearing this pandemic, and I feel fear as well, I just hope that we do not find out too late that the “Kingdom” is this earth. In thinking of everyone’s posts in this thread, I think of the following quotes. I have not been feeling very self-expressive lately, so forgive how sloppily I may be at trying to stitch these quotes/thoughts together here:

This is the greatest discovery of the scientific enterprise: You take hydrogen gas, and you leave it alone, and it turns into rosebuds, giraffes and humans.

–Brian Swimme

With the above quote, I think of how many new myths we might make out of the Earthrise myth. I also associate this with Pilgrim’s response about the scientific components of the air we breath and then his mentions about how music is needed in these times.

“The earth was once molten rock and now sings operas.”
― Brian Swimme, Canticle to the Cosmos, 1990

And the mouth opening to sing the opera is like the first utterance of any human on earth; it is an opening:

“It was out of the dynamic of cosmic celebration that we were created in the first place. We are to become celebration and generosity, burst into self-awareness. What is the human? The human is a space, an opening, where the universe celebrates its existence.”

― Brian Swimme, The Universe Is a Green Dragon: A Cosmic Creation Story

But now it seems not enough are heeding the dangers of this virus, and that now we are damning that existence. Here we could perhaps ask, and what is this virus? Is it too a space? Is it here to fill our space? It is filling our air and then our bodies. During the shutdown, the air was cleaner. The human openings that we are just had to rush and open things too soon and we gave COVID-19 its second wave; we needed our free energy so badly we threw caution to the 4 winds.

“Each being in the universe yearns for the free energy necessary for survival and development. Each existence resists extinction. The consequent history of violence in the universe is as inevitable as the gravitational pull between the Earth and the Sun.”

― Brian Swimme, The Universe Story: From the Primordial Flaring Forth to the Ecozoic Era–A Celebration of the Unfolding of the Cosmos

And now I am thinking of James wrote: “Jung’s ideas to me are one thing he brought forth that for me represent hope; so does anyone else have something to throw into this discussion?”

Jung, in one of his seminars, stated that humans have two basic instincts: The instinct (will) to live and the instinct (will) to die. The first time I ever read this, it spiraled my mind far outside of myself into numerous almost unutterable thoughts. I could understand an individual body’s death instinct when it has after all exhausted itself; however, it seemed rather unfathomable that humans as a species and collective psyche would have a death instinct of its own species. I did  some writing about this a few years back, about human ecological destruction; it seemed bad enough back then with all our self-made pollution in the air to cause disease; and now, with this virus in the air and in our psyches, we children of the earth so dependent on its fate,  just like an ideal school art project, hope has become an open-ended assignment.

As Stephen discussed, we cover our mouths with our masks and at a time when George Floyd could not breathe, neither can we. That is terrifying. In all its terror, it is the unfolding of the archetype of breath, first the fire-breathing dragons of the forest fires in the West, and the green-dragon (Swimme) myth now as we make up our myths about the corona virus, and at this some have failed to get the “meaning of the myth” as Campbell would often say, and next what types of operas will we write? What type of music will we sing? Who will write our new lyrics? Who will participate in the making of the new melody of the uni-verse? When the first wave hit, we kept hearing/seeing ads that “we are all in this together,” and then we saw how truly together we are/how catching the covid* is and then we seemed to split apart into factions of half and half fractions of who will wear a mask and who will not wear a mask, and then considering ourselves as one is not always such a favorite thing to consider when, as James wrote so poignantly “reaching out to a closed fist is not very encouraging when people all around you are sick and possibly dying.” So now we are left with our memories of the good ol’ days which were only almost yesterday.

So what are the new songs, the new openings, the new myths? And do we have some myths to close first, shutting things down again? Or to close down the virus altogether with the much anticipated vaccine? Some are creating the myth that the invisible Dragon Covid barely exists since it cannot be seen; some create the myth of going to the Covid party because the knight believed that Covid was a hoax but then sometime in the night sea journey the knight got sick and died; some believe this is the end of the world we have all been waiting for, saying the Mayans were only 8 years off (from their predicted 2012); some don’t care–they believe in heaven anyway and have no kids or grandkids here on the planet; many didn’t care about the 7 generations before them let alone the 7 generations after to follow; some will retreat to their bomb shelters and be the last earthling alive; some will blast out into and colonize space (if only they could already); some will search for a cure and make up myths about the cure; humans become covid-breathing dragons while others wear not just gas-masks but covid masks; some will continue to wonder if Gaia did not produce this virus to shut us down to clear the air long enough to provide us an opportunity to develop alternative energy sources we would actually quickly put to use before 2030, and some of us open our eyes just so we cannot bear to see what we see when our eyes are closed, our grandchildren left suffering here on earth when we are long gone from its surface. Others believe in and await a new dawn:

We must live as though we are setting the pattern for the future. At any moment, we may be. How the present period of human inflation ends will determine whether the stable period that is coming will be dark and repressive or will nurture the human spirit. It may sound terribly overwhelming and even unfair that so much responsibility for the future rides on every decision we make. But no — this way we live large. This is what it means to matter to the universe. Like the ancients who felt there was a bridge between their acts and the invisible beyond, our generation’s choices will have power over times and size-scales that we can hardly imagine. If we take on the cosmic responsibility, we get the cosmic opportunity — that rarest of opportunities for the kind of transcendent cultural leap possible only at the dawn of a new picture of the universe.

—Joel Primack and Nancy Abrams, The View from the Center of the Universe, 2006

*covid: a word (a name for a virus) I prefer to usually not capitalize