Several years ago, I walked into a coffee shop. I had some time to kill before an appointment and a good book to read. As I approached the counter and inquired about decaffeinated options, the barista asked me, “What are you reading?” It was Mountains Beyond Mountains, by Tracy Kidder. He hadn’t heard of it but commented that he liked to read but hadn’t read anything recently. I, in an uncharacteristic spurt of extroversion, asked, “What did you like to read?” Then, his eyes lit up, as he began to talk about quantum mechanics and string theory, subjects of which I have an extremely tentative understanding, but his passion for it was captivating. In the few minutes it took my coffee to brew, he explained to me how everything in the universe was made from the same source, if you believe the big bang theory, so the elements in our bodies are the same as those in stars millions of light years away. “We’re all star dust,” he said with child-like delight. Then, my coffee was ready.
The whole conversation lasted less than five minutes, but the star dust thing stuck with me, and I feel just as delighted by the fact as that barista seemed to be. It’s where poetry and science meet. It makes good, logical sense, AND it feels right. The idea that we are made of the same stuff as whatever is on the other side of the universe is calming and comforting to me, and I have integrated the idea into my spiritual contemplations.
It’s a cool idea, but what does it mean in everyday life, besides being fun to think about? As I look out my office window, I see a tree, the house across the street, a white SUV. The elements in all of these things are the same as what is in me. My neighbors who have different political views than I do are made of the same star dust as I am. People who are a different nationality, race, age, body shape, ability, sexual orientation or gender identity than I am – same star dust. The idea that, at our cores, we are all made of the same stuff means there’s no reason for us not to help each other, show compassion towards one another and work together to fix what is broken with our current world.
If we are the same as stars so far away, we can only imagine their existence, it’s a no-brainer that we are the same as each other. We are all in this thing together, so let’s act like it.
Image by ESO – http://www.eso.org/public/images/eso1207a/, CC BY 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=27850385