We are Star Stuff

NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope image of the cluster Westerlund 2 and its surroundings

The Science

Physicists who study the mysteries of the Universe have discovered some interesting things just this century. According to scientists who work with the Hubble Space Telescope (responsible for the image above),

…stars work as giant reprocessing plants taking light chemical elements and transforming them into heavier ones.

Some interesting data has come forth after the launch of Hubble and other similar-mission telescopes. At one time the leading thinkers on what the Universe was all about were led by the church (Catholic Church) and the teachings of the day were that Earth was at the center of the Universe.

We’ve come a long way and not without significant sacrifices. Some scientists who challenged the church lost their lives, and Galileo, whose work is foundational to today’s astrophysics (and more) threatened Pope Urban’s position on the science accepted by the church to the point that he was eventually tried by the Inquisition and found to be “vehemently suspect of heresy“.

This was a dangerous time to be found a heretic or anything close, and it was likely only Galileo’s previous close relationship with the Jesuits that kept him alive. He was forced to recant his theories, and spent the rest of his life under house arrest .

Of course, this didn’t stop the forward progress of science. It did, however, help show the irrelevance of the church on matters of science (nod to the exception represented by Father George Lemaître) which was an important step.

Today we largely accept that the Universe in which our galaxy – the Milky Way – exists began more than 13 billion years ago when for some yet-unknown reason, an infinitesimally small, dense and hot singularity began to expand rapidly.

The Spiritual

Stepping out of the purely scientific realm and into the spiritual world, there is a widespread belief that the Universe and humans are one: that we are star stuff. It turns out that there’s a lot of science to this claim. The iron carried on the heme molecule in our blood was forged in the super nova (destruction) of a dying star as were the sodium, potassium, phosphorous and many other critical elements in our bodies (about 73% of them).

Science tells us that we are made of the same stuff as the Universe; so what can we learn about the human race – about ourselves – as we ponder the following recent discoveries about the composition of the Universe:

  • Ordinary Matter: 4.6%
  • Dark Matter: 24%
  • Dark Energy: 71.4%

Scientists are learning more every year about dark matter and dark energy, but for now, let’s focus on the ordinary matter. If we are, as gurus and spiritual teachers across the ages have suggested, one with the Universe, then the physical bodies that we spend so much time and attention on in this world have a much smaller role in who we are than our popular culture would like us to believe.

Too many of us spend large portions of our lives focused, obsessed even, on our looks, our weight, the color of our hair, whether we have hair, our height, our wrinkles – our physical bodies, or as a physicist might describe it: ordinary matter.

I don’t know about you, but I’m weary of all the attention on those areas, and very much intrigued with the larger percentage of me that has nothing at all to do with my looks.

Dark Matter is believed to act in many ways as a glue within galaxies and Dark Energy is believed to be responsible for the accelerating expansion of the Universe.

These concepts are worthy of a separate blog, but until then I will be pondering what I might be able to do in my life if I stopped obsessing over what may end up being less than 5% of who I am, and focused on how to harness the rest of me – those dark and unknown territories quite possibly related in some way to the mysterious properties in the Universe. And after all, if we are star stuff – that’s not all that far out to consider.

(C) 2019 Practitioner's Path  

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