Contemplating the stars picks up one of the cornerstones of this blog: we orient by and are oriented as human beings by the stars. The stars are waymarkers out there; they are the building materials, too, of all carbon lifeforms; we host within us, are being created and renewed by elements that once floated in the spiralling galaxies. The very soul of human life–to say nothing of the iron coursing through your veins as you read this– depends on stardust. This is mind-boggling, amazing, wonderful. It is appropriate that we remember this dust in its earliest form as Lent begins. On this Wednesday believers foreheads’ are smudged with ash, a reminder of the beginning and the end, the alpha and omega. It is a reminder, too, that we carry light within us as remnants of the stars, heirs and reflections of an unimaginably vast and creative universe.
Our ancestry stretches back through the life-forms and into the stars,
back to the beginnings of the primeval fireball. This universe is a
single, multiform, energetic, unfolding of matter, mind, intelligence
(Brian Swimme, The Universe is a Green Dragon)
I loved this video piece (3″57) ‘We are Dead Stars’ by Nasa astrophysicist, Michelle Thaller, who has an enthusiastic, quite delightful dramatic sense. It’s exciting listening to her. Thaller’s little talk here dives into the question: What is human existence? (If I had my ‘druthers’ I’d probably not have gone with the adjective ‘dead’. Though it is a biological word appropriate for organic forms I suppose, somehow it doesn’t sit right with me. Wouldn’t “recycled” do? I did look up upcycling and downcycling, but I suppose which you chose, up- or down-, would depend on your views of, and outlooks for, humanity?). I like the term ‘remnant’ for its allusions to (needle-)craft and I also make an imaginative association (leap?) with fire.
‘We are Stardust’ I like much better and it is the title for this audio clip (16”20) — also featuring Michelle Thaller, and including Danny Glavin, an astrobiologist, and Br. Guy Consolmagno of the Vatican Observatory. It’s well worth a listen. Some gems include the observation that humans are, in fact, just complicated rocks; that ‘you find life by looking for things that are out of balance’ (juicy possibilities in this line!); a lovely riff on the big Saturnian moon, Titan, and a musing on the question of whether the human is born lonely because making connections and coming to a recognition of interdependence is such a joy.
We are the first humans to look
into the night sky and see the birth
of stars, the birth of galaxies, the
birth of the cosmos as a whole.
Our future as a species
will be forged within
this new story
of the world.