Differentiation

see Proper 23 (year A)
“image and likeness”
http://www.edgeofenclosure.org

I don’t remember ever making the connection between millions of Caesar’s coins imprinted all alike with his image and the overwhelming un-alikeness of all of us bumbling around in God’s image and likeness.   During my reflections this week, I remembered the scene in Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time in which all the children on the planet Camazotz bounce a ball in their front yards with chilling uniformity. I may not remember this correctly, but I believe one child misses the ball and the story implies that the punishment for lack of uniformity is terrifying.

At the farm we talk a lot about differentiation in nature and the universe which offers a clarifying lens of wonder to any direction you look; skyward or inward, to the horizon or in the bean patch.

Here’s a quote from Diarmuid O’Murchu’s book Evolutionary Faith: Rediscovering God in Our Great Story, one of the many favorite books in the sisters’ library.

“Differentiation” refers to the diversity, variation, and heterogeneity that we see all around us, highlighting how things differ from one another even within the same class or species.  In a word, everything is uniquely different, irrespective of its strength or weakness.  No two atoms are identical.  This variety is enhanced by an essential newness – what Swimme and Berry* call “an outrageous bias for the novel” – that characterizes the unfolding of life at every level.  Continuous innovation rather than consistent preservation is what we witness throughout the story of evolution.

“Autopoiesis” describes that propensity within all life-forms to self-organize and self-renew, a power from within that does not simply maintain homeostasis (Balance), but engenders the enduring creativity that begets sustenance and growth.  It is described by Swimme and Berry as “the power each thing has to participate directly in the cosmos creating endeavor.”

Hans Jonas suggests that we might ascribe to matter a “tendency” toward inwardness. He suggests that there is no plan or logos in the early universe, but there is a “cosmogonic eros”: “Right from the beginning, matter is subjectivity in its latent form, even if aeons, plus exceptional luck, are required for the actualizing of this potential.”

“Communion” is the goal of all movement, personal and planetary alike.  Communion is the power within the evolutionary story that forever draws things into mutual interdependence.  Relationship is the essence of existence; nothing makes sense in isolation.  Everything that exists, animate and inanimate alike, is begotten out of a relational matrix.  Communion is the cosmic destiny of all beings in a universe structured within the embrace of the curvature of space-time.

Together, these three fundamental energies provide the “lifeblood” on which evolution unfold and thrives. To quote Swimme and Berry,

“Were there no differentiation, the universe would collapse into a homogeneous smudge; were there no subjectivity (autopoiesis), the universe would collapse into inert, dead extension; were there no communion, the universe would collapse into isolated singularities of being.”

*Brian Swimme and Thomas Berry, The Universe Story
image: detail of The Creation of Adam, Mosaic, Duomo Monreale, 1182-92, Sicily

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