In Carter Phipps' new book Evolutionaries, he lists three defining characteristics of an emerging group of people he's calling 'evolutionaries'. One of the three is the ability to "look through the lens of evolutionary time". This is the capacity to grasp the great scope of cosmic and human history, and there are few resources that can better help us achieve this than the growing field of Big History. (I wrote a short post about Big History that you can read here).
A few months back Michael Dowd wrote an article for the Huffington Post called Big History Hits the Big Time, and in it he recommended a new History Channel video called The History of the World in Two Hours. I bought the video right away and it's great. It goes from the Big Bang to the present day in 2hrs, and one of the cool things the video does is when a new element is formed during the evolution of the universe (via a supernova or some other activity), it pauses and fast forwards to the Earth and to human history and shows how we use that element. It links the whole story together in a way that at times gives me a mild case of vertigo, but is also exhilarating in a way that's hard to describe.
In Phipps' book he mentions that Teilhard de Chardin "suggested that the capacity to see in deep time is an emergent potential in the species. We are learning to perceive the vast epochs involved in the evolutionary dynamics that make up our bodies, and even our minds". I can attest to the fact that this isn't a fully formed capacity in myself; I feel like I could watch the History Channel video about twenty more times before my brain could actually stretch and absorb what it's taking in. But even so, my experience of this perspective aligns with Phipps when he writes:
Awakening to a felt sense of the past and the future as much vaster than ever considered before, the individual feels connected to the developmental, in-process, unfolding nature of his or her own consciousness, of culture, of life, and even of the cosmos itself.
Here's a short one minute trailer for the The History of the World in Two Hours:
Another great place to gain quick access to a vast historical view is via Dan Carlin's podcast Hardcore History. Carlin, a former history major and reporter, is a great guide through all kinds of territory in human history. Andrew wrote a short post a while back called A History of Rome, where he introduced Carlin's epic six-part Death Throes of the Roman Republic. Andrew and I were squash partners for the past couple years before he moved out to Ontario start a farm, and every Wednesday he'd say "Have you listened to Carlin yet?". Months later I finally got around to it, and I'm so glad I did. I've only listened to the twelve episodes that are free on iTunes, and they're an amazing romp through Rome, 'the Dark Ages', WWII, the Mongol empire, Magellan and the age of discovery, and much more. There's another thirty episodes in the back catalogue that are all available for one dollar, and I look forward to digging into those.
Dan Carlin is a great storyteller and I appreciate the tough realism he brings to the violent nature of human history, the chronic corruption of politics, and many other aspects of history that help us get a better understanding of currents that are still alive in our own tumultuous age. From an integral perspective, listening to Carlin's shows can go a long way to fleshing out an understanding of the different stages/epochs of human history, a great tonic for the thin and simplistic way these things are often understood. Here's a sample of a Hardcore History show on Alexander the Great and Hitler, to give a sense of Carlin's voice and style.