We need art—the nonverbal kind—to take in new, profound kinds of awareness. Composer and classical guitarist Sam Guarnaccia is doing his musical part. He’s created a beautiful new, major musical work that calls on orchestra, chorus, and soloists to celebrate the place we share in an evolving universe. I’ve heard it—it’s lush and evocative and includes praise for life forms and forces you don’t often hear about in concert halls, like cell membranes, tree roots, and gravity.
There are selections from Sam’s Emergent Universe Oratorio in this episode, and he and I talk about ideas such as:
-The role music plays in heightening our awareness
-How this new Universe Story differs from indigenous stories
-Sam’s religious background and how he’s oriented now
-What “emergence” is and why it rocks
-Humanity’s fatal flaw
-Slime molds and why I want Sam to put them back in the oratorio.
Some of the people we mention in this episode are Buddhist and systems scholar and writer Joanna Macy; cultural historian Thomas Berry and mathematical cosmologist Brian Swimme, who wrote The Universe Story; Mary Evelyn Tucker, a religious scholar at Yale University who worked with Thomas Berry; and Ursula Goodenough, cell biologist, writer (The Sacred Depths of Nature), and professor of biology at Washington University.
Here’s information on the June 30, 2017 premiere of the oratorio in Cleveland, and Sam’s other works.
Primary Librettists: Peter Adair, with Caitlin Adair
With contributions from: Cameron Davis, John Elder,
Sam Guarnaccia and Paula Guarnaccia
“We are beings
In whom the universe
Shivers in wonder at itself —
The space where earth dreams.”
Brian Thomas Swimme, Mary Evelyn Tucker
How surely gravity’s law,
Strong as an ocean current,
Takes hold of even the smallest thing
And pulls it toward the heart of the world.
Each thing —
Each stone, blossom, child —
Is held in place.
Only we, in our arrogance,
Push out beyond what we each belong to
For some empty freedom.
If we surrendered
To earth’s intelligence
We could rise up rooted, like trees.
Instead we entangle ourselves
In knots of our own making.
And struggle, lonely and confused.
So, like children, we begin again
To learn from the things,
Because they are in God’s heart;
They have never left him.
This is what the things can teach us:
patiently to trust our heaviness.
Even a bird has to do that
Before it can fly.
Rainer Maria Rilke
Translated by Joanna Macy and Anita Barrows