We are all stardustI was and in fact, still am an unusual child. I neither acquiesced to idiocy nor was I confrontational; I just questioned—a lot and used my own logic to work things out.
Though my soul may set in darkness, it’ll rise in perfect light for I’ve loved the stars too fondly to be fearful of the night.”
- Sarah Williams,
The Old Astronomer, 1868
I was and in fact, still am an unusual child. I neither acquiesced to idiocy nor was I confrontational; I just questioned—a lot and used my own logic to work things out. I remember being told that people never really die, they just travel to the heavens above and that the stars which adorn the night sky are the beautiful shining souls. I remember sneaking out of bed to look upon a star studded sky only to ask myself, “Can those stars really be the souls of the people who left us?” From the Milky Way to the Pleiades, the night sky never ceased to amaze me.
Almost a decade has gone by since then yet I still sneak out of bed to look upon the night sky. I was a six year old then, asking myself whether the stars really are souls but now I am a sixteen and know what exactly the stars are made up of. This is the only difference between then and now because the sky remains enduringly beautiful. Learning the science behind the stars and the sky had not made it less enchanting to me and the awe felt a decade, I still feel on starry nights.
I was a bright student as a child and every Dashain, I have grown up hearing the same ‘benediction’, “Daktar Banes.” Stethoscopes and injections only ever scared me so becoming a doctor was out the question. I remember reading “The Cosmic Perspective” as a nine year old and crying because that was when I realized the universe was infinite and how insignificant and small all of us are. I can’t lie, the thought had scared me and I had felt hapless.
Truth is, we are infinitesimal, tiny beings residing on a tiny planet that revolves around one of the smallest stars on this end of the Orion arm, a part of the Milky Way galaxy which harbours many other, much larger star systems. Today, I know that indeed we are short-lived and that the entirely of time for which the human species has existed on earth has passed a like wink in the eyes of god (in fact, the average human life is only about two-tenth of a second on the cosmic calendar). Our lives are ephemeral and short and even our history is minute for the infinitely expanding universe we live in, is not measured in centuries or millennias but in aeons. Still, the little time we have and each other is all we have got. Together I believe we can make a difference because for now, we are the best hope that the universe has-in spite of its infinite vastness there no proof or life outside our tiny planet-and so, it would be totally wrong to call Earth and it’s creatures insignificant.
When we die we are become stardust. The nitrogen in our DNA, the calcium in our teeth and bones, the iron in our blood were all made in the interiors of the collapsing stars. Everything is connected and nothing is wasted in the universe—everything must return to came, everything coalesces then dissolves, this is entropy and a law of the universe. The entire world is made of vibrating particles whose cosnstitution in different forms differentiate the animate from the inanimate. To make coffee, we would need milk (unless you are like me), water, sugar (maybe), and coffee powder. The coffee powder in turn is made up of coffee beans, glucose, hydrogenated vegetable oil, Dipotassium phosphate, sodium hexametophosphate, sodium citrate, silicon dioxide, diacetyl tartaric acid and distilled monoglyceride. These molecules can be further divided into its constituent atoms—carbon, oxygen, hydrogen, potassium, phosphorus, sodium, silicon. Where do these atoms come from? Aside from hydrogen, they all originate from stars. A star is a kind of cosmic kitchen where atoms of hydrogen are cooked into heavier atoms. Stars condense from interstellar gas and dust, which are composed mostly of hydrogen. This hydrogen (which is essential for our coffee) was made in the Big Bang, which began the cosmos. So, long story cut short, deconstructing an everyday substance like coffee (or anything really) will ultimately lead us to the fundamentals of the universe.
I have never believed in a heaven. But sometimes as I gaze into the night sky, something tells me that if there is a heaven, this is it. I shall never know for sure whether heaven exists or not, but I do know that something as close does exist and that the universe shall forever continue to beguile us. Just as one can never find all the seashells in a beach, but just stumble upon a prettier one now and then; the heavens will never give their complete story away and this is part of the reason why the idea of heaven is so enchanting. We are each universes in motion we are stardust come alive in ephemeral bodies. They say home is where you belong—yours might be in the forest where the sun spreads its light slowly, or maybe your ideal home is by a meandering river, mine is most definitely the library and the places where people I love come together— but in the end all of our home is among the stars-it is where we come from and where we will all return.
- Wosti is a 2 student at Delhi Public School, Dharan