Are We Really Made of Stardust?

We are connected in every imaginable way.

Posted Jul 11, 2017

Source: Swirling/Seaburn

This picture of our oldest granddaughter, Gianna, was taken recently on her eighth birthday. She liked the dress we got her so much that she quickly put it on so she could see how it looked when she swirled. I took pictures as quickly as I could, hoping that I would capture her face in at least one of them. When I looked at the photos on my phone, this one surprised and delighted me. I think it’s because there is such beauty and balance and joy in it. In a single pose, Gianna is captured for who she is, this whirling, twirling center of a tiny universe, this bit of stardust in full and brilliant display.

Years ago Carl Sagan said, “We are a way for the universe to know itself. Some part of our being knows this is where we came from. We long to return. And we can, because the cosmos is also within us. We’re made of star stuff.” Turns out this is more than poetic. Every element, every molecule, every ingredient of nature’s stew came from the same event, the same original source. When creation went into its full-tilt expansion after the Big Bang, subatomic particles assembled into atoms, first forming hydrogen, which began clumping together due to gravity after several hundred million years. These clumps are what we have come to call stars. (Yes, like the writers of Genesis, I am skipping a great many steps.) These first stars blazed, and cooled, and exploded, creating and releasing even more energy, even more elements of our universe.

Source: Stars/nasa

Through this process every ingredient of the universe was (and continues to be) created, every building block was put in place. And everything that is a part of us now was set in motion then, swirling us all into existence, bit by bit, billions of tiny stars on this planet alone. Scientists estimate that 93 percent of the mass of our body is literally stardust. As one writer put it, “Just think, long ago, someone may have wished upon the star you are made of.”

This creation story has the same stunning elegance as the Genesis story. And both stories are saying similar things. Everything in all creation shares the same source, the same material, the same essence; we are all connected, which is to say that we are all a part of each other, just as we are a part of everything in the world and in our universe. Millennia of religious thinkers have called this source of connectedness God. And they have called the connecting matter love. Not the pop culture love that has come to define the word, but the love that is grounded in the recognition that we are one and that we all deserve a respected place on life’s dance floor.

Despite the powerfully convincing illusion that we are all separate beings, when I remember that the opposite is, in fact, the case, that all of us come from the same stardust, that all of us are part and parcel of each other, that all of us are swirling in this life together, I find that I am a better person for it.

David B. Seaburn is a writer. His latest novel is Parrot Talk ( Seaburn is also a retired marriage and family therapist, psychologist and minister.