"Then I will tell you a great secret, Captain. Perhaps the greatest of all time. The molecules of your body are the same molecules that make up this station and the nebula outside, that burn inside the stars themselves. We are starstuff, we are the universe made manifest, trying to figure itself out. As we have both learned, sometimes the universe requires a change of perspective."

-- Delenn to Sheridan in Babylon 5:A Distant Star


The glass of water I'm sipping has been, at various times:

In the future, molecules from this glass might be split to send a starship on its path, or used to bathe someone's wounds. And it's just water!

The molecules that make up our bodies have a history just as grand. We're the stuff that dreams, and everything else, is made of. We are parts of reality given thought and form. We are dust, and will return to dust, but the moments when we can talk and act and think have a heart-stopping beauty to them.

This line of thought is, for me, inseperable from my faith, but I hope it's something that can be appreciated by everyone.

To me this has a heavy flavour of reincarnation and associated ideas. That you have been a part of past people and things, recombined to our current incarnation, only to be dissasembled and reincorporated into something else. The Circle of Life, as Disney saw fit to put it in The Lion King.

Ashes to ashes, dust to dust.

You are also (at the start) a large portion of your mother's cellular matter. A different spin on the nature vs. nurture issue.

I depart as air . . . . I shake my white locks at the runaway sun,
I effuse my flesh in eddies and drift it in lacy jags.

I bequeath myself to the dirt to grow from the grass I love.
If you want me again look for me under your bootsoles.
You will hardly know who I am or what I mean,
But I shall be good health to you nevertheless,
And filter and fibre your blood.

Failing to fetch me at first keep encouraged,
Missing me one place search another,
I stop somewhere waiting for you.

-Walt Whitman, from the end of Leaves of Grass

This is one of the most poetic and wonderful facts about our mundane lives that exist. When you are tired and lonely, pounding the pavement enroute to or from some destination that doesn't really interest you to meet or work with people you don't like or appreciate, remember this:

We are truly the stuff of stars. It took billions of years of near-incomprehensible development, from the big bang (or whatever started the universe, from God's wish to a leakage in spacetime from another universe) to the reality that is your existence.

The first stars were supermassive things, many times the size of our pedestrian sun. They formed out of the massive clouds of hydrogen present after the big bang (the ashes, as it were, of the creation of the universe.)

These supermassive stars burned up their hydrogen fuel at a prodigious rate in a fusion reaction of greater than mythological scale. They converted the hydrogen to helium to the point that they couldn't support their own mass. A star's density is a function of how heavy it is and how much energy it creates, the temperature determining the density. As the energy production falls off, the star collapses. This in turn creates more energy from compression, which enables the heavier helium to fuse. This reaction doesn't produce enough energy, so the collapse continues, with heavier and heavier elements being formed, from {periodic table|carbon to iron]. This actually occurs in layers within the star according to the densities of the materials fusing, with several reactions occurring simultaneously.

These stars eventually collapse to the point that the recoil energy from their cores (an extreme simplification) cause them to explode in a cataclysmic supernova, scattering their material to the heavens. Eventually, smaller stars form from the detritus, and the process continues, creating more and varied heavier elements. In fact, the only mechanism for creation of heavier elements than hydrogen in the universe (beyond man-made events) is star-driven fusion.

Eventually, the process develops to the point where smaller, more stable (inextricably linked in this context) stars coalesce, sometimes with planetary systems. All of the material in these systems, including any biosphere that develops, is made from the remainders of the supermassive stars that existed in the region previously.

That means that you, your car, the boss you don't like, the house you live in, and everything else is made up of stuff that was first forged in the heart of a star.

Cool, huh?

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