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Wednesday, May 6, 2009

We Are Stardust

Joni Mitchell's popular song written in the Age of Aquarius has always intrigued me. Joni makes implications for the creation of humankind when she sings these lines: "We are stardust We are golden (We are caught in the devil's bargain.) And we've got to get ourselves Back to the garden" --Joni Mitchell, "Woodstock" Edward Zganjar, LSU physicist puts the creation of man in less poetic terms. Zganjar writes, "Those elements were ejected into space by the force of the massive explosion, where they mixed with other matter and formed new stars, some with planets such as earth. That's why the earth is rich in these heavy elements. The iron in our blood and the calcium in our bones were all forged in such stars. We are made of stardust." The Bible in the Second Chapter of Genesis tells of the creation of humans in this passage:

"And The Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul. And The Lord God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him ... And The Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept: and He took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof; And the rib, which The Lord God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man. And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man." (Genesis 2:7,18,21-23 KJV)
Comparing the poetic, scientific, and Biblical accounts of the creation of humans, the reader finds some common and factual elements of description. Mitchell makes an allusion to the Garden of Eden, the Biblical home of Adam and Eve. Certainly, a scientific view of an explosive creation forming a new universe must make room for such a paradise of habitation. And, the common particles of dust represent the most basic element of life in each passage. For me, these references to stardust cause no philosophical or scientific argument. Whether God's creation of the universe happened in a "big bang" or in a less violent manner will be a matter of speculation debated by scientists and theologians throughout the ages. But, mankind is certainly made of the dust of the earth, common elements formed in the natural creation. And, to me, this is assuring information concerning our return to stardust one day. What a beautiful image for the eventual passage of this earthly body. So, the common dust must confirm that the carbon comprising the world (the fingers that type these words and the eyes that read them) at one point or another escaped from the hot, gassy grip of some distant star. For the reader who takes all words literally, let me elaborate. The materials for our human fingers and eyes have existed in raw form for eons, not the actual human beings. (I am old, but not quite that ancient yet.) If the atoms in the hand and the atoms coursing through the veins are such stardust, then nucleosynthesis is real and each person is intimately connected. The origin of our common lives was formed during the death-throes of a star millions of years before the formation of the earth, blown into space from a nova. And God gave us that dusty creation. Each human is His dust and each human is one dust. To exist confirms a particular place in this order of related particles. Consider how everything is really one. All known matter is interconnected in a marvelous scheme. In essence, all humans are not only related in life but all humans are related in the shared environment of the universe to which we will eventually return. (and, some believe, to which we will return again and again). The term stardust satisfies me because temporal creations certainly change form. One day, I once challenged everyone in my English class to find an object at home that was at least 100 years old, a relatively short period of time considering the history of mankind. It was no surprise that most students could find nothing while some produced something that was a true keepsake, cherished and protected, such as a coin or a very, very, old document. This lack of 100 year evidence spurred a class conversation that confirmed that even though we cannot see things disappear with the naked eye, everything around us is continually disappearing. Someday, man-made monuments such as the Statue of Liberty, the Washington Monument, and the Golden Gate Bridge will cease to exist in their present form and return to stardust. And, amazingly the transformation happens all the time right before our eyes. Does this mean that everything on earth is really alive? Walls, rocks, even monuments? A human's limited perception will deny an answer to this question. I met a man who believed eternal heaven, in essence, was spent by a soul exploring untouched regions of our infinite universe. I found this interesting that I might someday be a "soulistic star-trekker,"but I left that option open to speculation. This man, however, did feel the connection to the wholeness of living with an infinite universe. To pun, he was just dying to see more of it. In summary, I do not think that "we are stardust" as Joni puts it, goes against any belief of human creation. Humans certainly are matter of some kind (Scientists. call it what you will.) and our creation sprung from available raw materials. I wonder if one parent who attended the Woodstock festival was inspired to name a child Stardust? Far out! (Sorry, couldn't resist)
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