Maps of Time

An Introduction to Big History

David Christian

Reading this book in an isolated cabin really spun my head out. I’m not sure I’ve retained too much of it from that experience—this is a hefty tome, to be studied rather than digested in a single reading. But it’s undeniably a fine achievement, folding the whole of time—from the Big Bang to the 20th century—into a single scope of study, a “macro-history”, the grandest story it’s possible for an academic to tell. A kind of recursive, fractal understanding of resonant patterns across scale (e.g. comparing the evolution of cities to the formation of stars) takes the most interesting aspect of Terence McKenna’s “Timewave Zero” (though not from McKenna of course!) and gives it a rigorous framework. There’s oodles of hard facts along the way, each set all the more meaningful for their being placed with a coherent structure. And it’s all bracketed by an admission of the dangers of such totalizing narratives, and a call to view it as the story of our culture: a “modern creation myth”. Such excellent scholarship, framed by such humility, is a real winning combination for me.

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