Ask people to introduce themselves, and they will likely give their first and last names. Ask for more information, and they may refer back to their parents or grandparents. Additional inquiry may prod them to talk about a few of their ancestors. How many times can someone expect to hear people refer to their connection to early man or to the universe – the cosmic connections that enable people to co-exist with other humans and things – living and non-living? Is this apparent disconnection, as evidenced by our treatment of nature and each other, simply a lack of awareness or is there is lack of concern about the overall humanity and its connections? Awareness of the history of the universe, the creation, the chaos, the circle of life, the central role of humans, and the notion of how it all co-exists may be the key to finding relevance in the lost connections that tie us together. This awareness is the central theme of the Montessori method of education. Through the idea of cosmic education and the notion of applied philosophy, Italian physician and educator Maria Montessori developed an educational system wherein helping the development of the complete human being is the goal. This paper examines the missing connections, exploring how we understand the complexities and chaos all around us, and asks how Montessori education may provide a means to connect the dots.
The Enormity and Complexity of the Universe
Humans have a long history of trying to understand the vastness of the universe and their place in it. As we approached the 20th century, evolution theories about the origin of the universe had proceeded at a rapid pace. New discoveries and inventions, such as telescopic devices, enabled people to see parts of the universe never before imagined. But, up until the last century, and in some cases, even now, most origin theories have been religious in nature. Ancient Greek mythology believed fiery that gods battled, bore children, and, eventually, formed the universe. Hinduism believes that reincarnated gods created the subsequent versions of the Universe. Judeo-Christian tradition holds that God spoke and created a universe. The stories of Hopi Indians tell of how their ancestors descended from the first man, in a world far below the present one, who climbed up through four successive worlds along a reed, and emerged in the world we know today. The commonalities of many of the origin myths and beliefs in the world are dependent upon faith in the existence of a Divine Being: the First Creator who started it all, but who cannot be seen. Such faith is not dependent on any scientific proof, but, rather, upon the stories passed down to people through their families, religions, and cultures. Can we fully understand the history of humans without exploring the story of the Universe and humanity? Mathematical cosmologist Brian Swimme (2011) said “Today we know what no previous generation knew: The history of the universe and the unfolding of life on Earth” (p. XX) Perhaps we have to dig deeper to answer the questions when asked to introduce ourselves and find our true identities. Are not identities that came into existence in a matter of a millisecond and spread over billions of light years are fascinating as they are awe-inspiring? Geologist Thomas Berry (2007) stated that “To tell the story of anything, you have to tell the story of Everything”). Swimme (2011) further says that, “The appearance of atoms enabled the universe to enter an entirely new phase of its creativity. If no atoms had formed, the luminous matter would continue in the form of plasma” (p. 14). Are we then not obliged to thank that atom, which at the right time, with its correct chemistry, brought the universe, and subsequently, this place we call Earth, into existence? While the basic elements like hydrogen and helium existed from the beginning of our universe, it took over 300 million years before the formation of...
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