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The Stardust That We Are

On a clear, cold, winter’s night, have you ever gazed up at the endless sky? Away from the frenzy of the city and its glare, alone, just you and your universe, have you felt that fleeting feeling in the pit of your stomach, that intimation that the constellations are calling you home? It has brought me to tears.

The immensity of our universe can overwhelm us at times like this, when we take that moment that, if we are at all sensitive, leaves us breathless and in awe of something so measureless. Our narrow projections, just for one passing moment, dissolve like so much stardust blowing in the wind.

But in that moment, and they are rare in our lives, perhaps our hearts take an turn that somehow changes us, and suddenly we know, in our hearts of hearts, that the stars and us are one. We are but the dust of stars sprinkled on the earth to dance awhile before we return to our destiny.

This tiny planet earth that we call home is nestled in orbit around a medium sized star called the sun. In days past we worshiped our sun as a God. We do that with things we don’t understand. That was when the earth was still the center of the universe, in our minds, because everything seemed to revolve around us.

The earth was flat then, because we could not comprehend anything that didn’t have a beginning and an end, and surely if we walked far enough, we would fall off the edge.

But now we know that our sun is not a God, only a ball of nuclear fire that began as a clump of gaseous elements that condensed into a fiery reaction, spewing off arms of materials that eventually became our solar system, and our earth. And therefore our earth is of the sun, of a star, and we in turn are of the earth, the elements of the earth, that just yesterday was stardust.

Our sun and its planets find themselves situated on the outer fringes of its galaxy, a circular disk of billions of stars wandering through space and time. And in our visible universe, countless of these galaxies dot the skies, billions of them, each with their billions and trillions of stars.

The Milky Way, that silvery, foggy band that stretches across the night sky, is our galaxy as we look at it from our vantage point from an non-descript outpost far from its center. The glow of billions of suns.

The time and space involved is mind-numbing. Distances between individual stars is measured in light years, the distance light travels in one year. Light travels at 186,000 miles per second, so a light year works out be 5,865,696,000,000 miles. The distance between galaxies is about 20,000 light years. You do the math.

Modern theories include multiple universes, unlimited universes, endless, beginning less, eternal universes all expanding with an initial “Big Bang” from super condensed matter no larger than a pea, into what we see in the night sky, before the “Big Crunch,” as the universe condenses back into its pea-sized super mass, only to expand again in eternal cycles.

We have difficulty dealing with no beginnings and no endings because we cannot relate to them, given our current state of awareness in time and space with its physical laws that we are not equipped to see past. And even if we could glimpse something so enormous that had no beginnings or endings, what could we say about it? What could a bug crawling across a page of Shakespeare say about Shakespeare’s insights?

That which we do not understand we must deify, otherwise we would go insane. What else can we do in the presence of such enormity? Without a God, we would have to admit that we are but stardust, and as such, our stardust legacy would eternally create and destroy, evolve and putrefy, change and remain the same for eons upon eons. Who could not be humbled in the presence of such endlessness? What could truly matter anymore?

There is a good possibility that what we have concocted, about everything, is unreal. A delusion; a dream, a fairy tale. But to admit something like this would pull the rug out so fast from beneath our illusions that we would surely go mad.

But then again, for the few with inordinate courage; to know that he or she is lost can be a new beginning. As long as we have the courage to remain lost and not fall for the first weak finality because we feel so frightened and alone; as long as we can dwell courageously in that unknowing that is our stardust legacy, then within that unknowing may be revealed the secrets of the universe.

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