Serendipity lately seems to be taking me to the stars. I dance with the stars often, as anyone who follows me can attest. But the stars seem aligned (sorry) for me to write about them once again today. It began with Ryan Holiday quoting the familiar phrase “we are stardust” in his exceptional book Stillness Is The Key. That got me thinking about the Joni Mitchell song Woodstock (with apologies to Joni and CSNY, my favorite version is James Taylor singing it on the Howard Stern Show or if you prefer, in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony for Joni Mitchell)
“We are stardust
Billion year old carbon
We are golden
Caught in the devil’s bargain
And we’ve got to get ourselves
Back to the garden”
– Joni Mitchell, Woodstock
Heavy stuff when you think about it; we’re made up of stardust; billion year old carbon recycled into our present form. Our bodies are made up of the timeless material of infinity. And our thoughts are built on the timeless wisdom of the ages. That makes us… timeless in a way, doesn’t it? And one with the very universe around us. Whoah. But could this be true? I believe so, but sought out validation with a Google search nonetheless (because isn’t that where the truth is?) And I came across a Carl Sagan quote confirming that yes, we are indeed made up of star stuff:
“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,” – Carl Sagan
So this fascination with the stars is a longing to return? Maybe, but I think it’s more a feeling of solidarity with the infinite universe around me. A way for the universe to know itself… From the daffodils patiently biding their time in the sun to the stars I gaze up at light years away from that sun. To infinity and beyond, if you will. My reading finally brought me this morning to W.D. Auden (via Brain Pickings) and this stunning poem, included in its entirety because I just couldn’t help myself:
“Looking up at the stars, I know quite well
That, for all I care, I can go to hell,
But on earth is the least
We have to dread from man or beast.
How should we like it were stars to burn
With a passion for us, we could not return?
If equal affection cannot be,
Let the more loving one be me.
Admirer as I think I am
Of stars that do not give a damn,
I cannot, now I see them, say
I missed one terribly all day.
Were all stars to disappear or die,
I should learn to look at an empty sky
And feel its total dark sublime,
Though this may take me a little time.”
– W.H. Auden, The More Loving One
When the student is ready the teacher will appear. I’m a ready student, looking up at the universe in wonder, and marveling at the bounty being returned to me by timeless teachers. And isn’t that being truly alive, getting out of our own heads and dancing with this timeless wisdom? We’re all stars dancing in the universe. Some brighter than others. Personally, I strive to be brighter still that I might offer more. If equal affection cannot be, Let the more loving one be me.