Made of Earth, Made of Stars

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(image by sanmonku)

Forgive me, this may sound crazy: a month or so ago I was pretty damn impressed by Miley Cyrus. Religious groups on the net damn near went up in arms when the young star quoted physicist Lawrence Krauss and the relationship of stars (not celebrities like Cyrus, but stars like our sun) to humans: “Forget Jesus: Stars died so you could live.”

The longer version goes a little something like this (from popcrush.com):

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Of course, she faced a ton of backlash. From religious groups of all kinds to even her most loyal followers, people went nuts, especially the “Forget Jesus” part. She replied saying “How can people take the love out of science and bring hate into religion so easily? It makes me sad to think the world is this way. Like Einstein says: ‘Science without religion is lame. Religion without science is blind.’” I have no idea what’s inspired her to go this path of scientific thought: it could be a short fad or a long-lasting, life-altering change of heart, but either way, I give it to her for sticking to her guns and at least being influenced by large ideas, not Snooky and J-Woww’s new reality show.

Since then there has been tons of posts about it, which really made me back away from writing about it before. But then I saw something today on my friend’s wall, and it made me think back to this. It was a meme picture (of which there seems to be a million of nowadays) with apparently a Serbian proverb on it, and it struck me as incredibly powerful, yet simple. Here’s what it was:

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Not anything profound, I know, but somehow incredibly thought-provoking, with just a touch of spirituality to it. Or at least philosophy. It reminds you that we are not bound to Earth, but that we are made of the very universe. Everything that has ever come into existence was formed from elements and chemical reactions that happened with the right circumstances and timing. Stars, like pretty much everything else in the universe, live and die.

When a star dies, it explodes in what’s called a supernova. The remnants of that star make chemical reactions and give birth to baby suns, one of which finds its place and becomes the center of its own solar system (sometimes two stay near each other, called binary star systems, or vampire stars, because one feeds off the other). Then the remaining gas combines to help form planetoids that eventually come together to form planets: of gas, of rock, of whatever. And then, with the right conditions, the planet could eventually–with a good combination of light, heat, and energy–lead to some form of early life, which evolves into everything we know today. All of it is connected, all of it is a cycle, just like life on earth. Remember The Lion King and the “Circle of Life”? That’s how everything works.

Now, this might make everything feel purely scientific, clinically cold even, for people with religious beliefs. But, with the “Forget Jesus” part of that quote omitted, this idea is perhaps the most spiritual thing I’ve ever heard.

Think about it: almost all religions speak of everything being connected; everything being made of God; of spirits and souls that don’t die, but move from earthly bodies into a spiritual beyond. If you think of how science says energy can’t be destroyed, only changed, and if you think of the Universe being made up of God, then the “Stardust” thought only reaffirms the basics of just about every single religion out there. Just without the rigid rules implemented by cultural laws (seriously, if real Christians followed the Bible to a tee, they’d live a lot different than they do today: read the Book of Leviticus and you’ll see, or A.J. Jacob’s “The Year of Living Biblically,” where he spends a year following as best as possible the rules and laws of the Bible). Just without the “mine vs yours” competition of most people in the world who believe their religion’s interpretation of the world is the right one. Just without the question of faith. This is a hardcore fact: we’re all made of the same stuff when broken down to our smallest particle: humans, animals, plants, water, air: to some degree we’re all a part of a common whole, if not completely, than partially.

That makes us all cousins, to a certain degree, which is a little creepy. But whatever.

But seriously: as a huge fan of Carl Sagan, and pondering man’s relationship to the great, mysterious universe around us, I’ve found the idea of everything being made of stardust (or, as Sagan called it, “star stuff“) to be so simple and so beautiful at the same time. And, for me at least, it adds its own higher calling, its own form of ascension, it’s own form of unity.

This is Carl Sagan’s “star stuff” bit from his original show: please, watch it, think about it, listen to his Agent Smith sounding voice and just mellow out to the thought of this great beyond we all came from, and will, in one form or another, all go to again. There’s so little we know about our universe. With centuries of science behind us, all that we’ve figured out so far, we probably don’t even know 1% of what there is to know about ourselves, about space, about reality. Religious zealots, atheists, everyone should live less with “who’s right”, and more by mutual progress. If there’s one thing this universe is about, it’s progression, evolution, adaptation, change. We should live by that, live by what’s right, live by helping each other move forward, and live to do great things for the sake of humanity.

We belong to more than just ourselves, our petty ambitions, our silly grievances, our selfish tendencies: we are made of the earth, of stars, of the universe. That should be enough motivation to aspire to a collective greatness. After all, doesn’t it get boring talking about the Kardashians?

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