The Story of Everything by John Kotre

The Story of Everything
A Parable of Creation and Evolution

Cowley Publications
Rowman & Littlefield, 2007

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When a debate hits an impasse, it doesn't hurt to try a story. Creationists and evolutionists have been debating long and hard, so here's a story for both sides--a parable that takes place between the generations. It's about leaving the Old for the New, especially when you love the Old and hold it sacred.

"The book will provide as much brain-bending consciousness-shifting as you can take, but it rides along like any good parable on a well-spun yarn."
-- Leah DuMouchel, Reviewer for
the Ann Arbor News

"What a wonderfully broad reading of science it reveals, interwoven with its spiritual message of the quest to understand the significance of the cosmos and our part in it."
-- David Myers, Hope College,
Trustee of the John Templeton Foundation


To Begin

This is a parable. A parable is a story you lay down next to a mystery, as a way of honoring it. When the mystery is about everything--about quarks and bugs and spirits and stars, not to mention science, religion, and philosophy--well, that's a lot for a parable to handle.

So this one is longer than most. But it's not that complicated. There's a Speaker. There's a Story. Each has a life. Each makes a journey. The Story's journey seems almost human, which should not be surprising because stories are a lot like people. They are born, they grow, and they die, just like people do. They enter your life, they stay for a while, they leave. Where they go is anybody's guess, but sometimes they return, vastly changed.

"We are in trouble just now because we are in between stories," said the priest and self-described "Earth Scholar" Thomas Berry in 1978:

The Old Story--the account of how the world came to be and how we fit into it--sustained us for a long time. It shaped our emotional attitudes, provided us with life purpose, energized action, consecrated suffering, integrated knowledge, and guided education. We awoke in the morning and knew where we were. We could answer the questions of our children.

But no longer, said Berry, and he saw a New Story in the distance, coming our way. Nearly thirty years later, we are still in between. Maybe that's because it's hard to let the Old Story go. When you love something, when you hold it sacred, how can you show it the door and give its place to a stranger? There is guilt in the transition, and fear. You feel unclean. You feel uncertain. You betray the Old even as you greet the New.

And so, as Berry foresaw, we are still in trouble. In our schools and courts we go to war these days under the flags of "creation," "evolution," and "intelligent design." Some of us fight for the Old, others just as desperately, as "fundamentally," for the New. It looks like a war between religion and science, but it is not; it is a war between those who embrace their stories with a grip so tight they squeeze the very life from them. Look at the result of such embraces: a bloody trail throughout history of people dying--and killing--for intractable versions of a story.

What? you say. Killing for a story? Why would anyone do that? You forget: these are stories of everything.

Maybe if we entered the world of these stories, maybe if we went where they went and saw what they saw and listened in on their thoughts, maybe we would understand them better. Maybe we'd let them go on a long, long walk by the sea, all by themselves. I think they would like that. I think they would come back refreshed--silent and innocent, sensitive to mystery once again, absorbent, ready to find the next Speaker.

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