Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Stardust to stardust . . .

May I share some thoughts about stardust? About stardust . . . and earthquakes . . . and trying to make sense of it all?

Perhaps the words stardust and earthquakes sit uneasily together in one sentence. Stardust has associations with magic and fantasy, it is an ingredient that adds sparkle to our lives.
As for earthquakes . . . ?
At the moment we're witnessing all too graphically the grief and misery that earthquakes are capable of inflicting. What's more, we're all sharing this grief and misery. It is global suffering that reaches out to touch everyone, even those who know nothing of the source.

But last night, still numbed by the intensity of the earth's potential for self-destruction, I watched Brian Cox's television series on the origins of the universe. Did you see it? There are times, and this was one of them, when I'm truly grateful that my education never included chemistry or physics. Now I have the thrill of coming upon an amazing story at a time when its scope, fascination, and incredible implications mean all the more for never having encountered it before. After spinning in space with the Global Coherence Initiative this was another mind-blowing lesson to absorb . . . whether I fully comprehend what I'm learning is quite another matter!

Let's start at the beginning.
I didn't know, did you, that we really are made of stardust? That it isn't just a fanciful expression. If I may, I'll attempt to give you a layman's version of an amazing story.

Over thirteen billion years ago . . . long before 'once upon a time' . . . all that there was in the universe, the newly-born universe, was formless potential. Then the element hydrogen fused into helium to form stars . . . brilliant stars shining alone in the impenetrable blackness. But these stars were subject to something that we know only too well, they were subject to time. One by one, the stars grew older. New stars arrived, but the existing ones aged.

However, unlike some of the human beings who were to come into existence way ahead in the future, the stars had no intention of fading away, they believed in going out with a dramatic bang. As the stars ran out of hydrogen and their end drew near, far from retiring into themselves, they grew steadily brighter and brighter. In a battle between energy pushing out and gravity pulling in, they burned ever more fiercely.

But time cannot be defeated. The final explosion was followed by a collapse and, in the process of collapsing, the stars produced components that had never existed before. In their fiery death throes they produced carbon and oxygen and all the ingredients of life. These, the vital building blocks for everything in the universe, including ourselves, were spewed out by dying stars.

Yes, I know, that is only half the story. It is only the physical component. What about the intelligence given to that mixture of carbon and oxygen . . . what about consciousness? This is where the story becomes mind-blowing, the divine intelligence, of which we are a part, used stardust to fashion an earthworm . . . a snowdrop . . . birdsong . . . not to mention a curious creature that walks on its hind-legs, finds words to express its ideas, and can, of itself, invent, amongst many other things, the computer that I'm working on.
Stardust with consciousness? That more or less sums us up.

Thinking along these lines doesn't diminish the shock, the grief, or the apprehension of the present moment . . . but it does give one a sense of the vastness of the picture. Somehow the words 'dust to dust, ashes to ashes' carry more poignancy and more relevance when seen in relation to our origins and our physical destination.

I wonder, I just wonder . . . could this be the source of the story of the Phoenix? Could it be that the fire of love and compassion, arising in the wake of a natural disaster, releases the Phoenix from the ashes and gives birth to the new?
Could it be that we need these ashes every so often? That a fierce explosion is beneficial, an explosion that breaks down old and rigid structures and eliminates out-dated ideas?
Could this be such a time . . . ?

It's just a thought . . .