Last Saturday I asked if the Bible was a Story of Everything and I answered no. The irony, of course, is that the Bible contains a Story of Everything--the creation account that opens the Book of Genesis. How can a brief narrative cover all of existence better than two thousand pages?
He had also found qubits and magnetars, proteomes and morganucodontids, ids and memes, e-commerce and virtual reality, fundamentalism and postmodernism. And thousands of other things he couldn't even name. He had, in truth, found too much. He had come across a glut of information. The problem was . . . he wasn't gluttonous. (from The Story of Everything, Chapter 21)
This is the age in which to ask that question. It's been estimated that a weekly edition of the New York Times contains more information than the average person living in the seventeenth century England came across in a lifetime. Researchers at the University of California Berkeley have concluded that the amount of new stored information doubled between 1999 and 2002 and is now increasing at the rate of 30% a year.
How can you cover it all?
Google is trying. The company's name is derived from "googol," the term for the number 1 followed by 100 zeroes. Imagine 10,000,000,000,
bits of information. Now imagine organizing them, which is how Google defines its mission. Now imagine getting them into a single human brain, which you have to do if you want to tell a story. It's tough but not impossible:
You take hydrogen gas, and you leave it alone, and it turns into rosebuds, giraffes and humans.That's from Brian Swimme, who used it to sum up The Universe Story, which he wrote in conjunction with Thomas Berry. It's one of the shortest Stories of Everything I've ever seen.
How do you boil things down? Maybe the trick is to let a child do the talking, as poet Charlie Finn did in Deep Joy, Steep Challenge. This is his seven-year-old daughter:
Let me tell you a story.In The Story of Everything there's an Old Story and a New Story. You can get each down to six words:
First there was nothing and then there was something.
Then there was a little something that became a big something.
Then the big something became human beings.
Old Story: First Spirit, then Matter, then Life.Not much character development there, but you get the idea. It's a matter of order, of sequence. To tell a Story of Everything, you don't have to know everything. You just have to know where everything goes.
New Story: First Matter, then Life, then Spirit.
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COPYRIGHT (C) 2007 JOHN N. KOTRE