HG Wells and The Universe Story in 1920

DSCF4747     hgwells     galaxy for HG Wells

Telling the human story within the larger context of Earth and Cosmos is not new, even to us westerners, apparently. Look at H.G. Wells’ The Outline of History (1920).  He calls Book I “The World Before Man” with chapters entitled thus: Chapter 1 “The Earth in Space and Time”; Chapter 2 “The Record of the Rocks”; Chapter 3 “Life and Climate”; Chapter 4 “The Age of Reptiles”; Chapter 5 “The Age of Mammal”. Book II “The Making of Man” begins with Chapter 6 “Apes and Sub-Men and Men”. He used the same story-telling structure of nested holons that Teilhard, Thomas Berry, and Brian Swimme use to tell the Story of the Universe: Universe, Earth, Life, Humans. Wells was thinking about the context of the human story.

The first sentence of the tome begins:

And first, before we begin the history of life, let us tell something of the stage upon which our drama is put and of the background against which it is played.

Wells uses “stage”, “drama”, “background”, and “played” like the Chorus/narrator of a Shakespearean drama. He tells us he is embarking on the telling of a story and wants the reader to be thus prepared.

Shifting voices his second paragraph reads:

In the last few hundred years there has been an extraordinary enlargement of men’s ideas about the visible universe in which they live. At the same time there has been perhaps a certain diminution in their individual self-importance. They have learnt that they are items in a whole far vaster, more enduring and more wonderful than their ancestors ever dreamed or suspected.

He moves straight to point out the human-Universe relationship and the evolution of consciousness brought to us by the scientific venture, then addresses the deflation of the Western ego in this new knowledge. Interestingly he tips his late 19th century-early 20th century cosmological cards when addresses humans as “items” – we might address them as “subjects” or “persons” – but then goes on to appreciate how full of wonder – “wonderful” – it is to be alive now to know this story.

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