My college boyfriend had a gloriously huge heart and a mind filled with dreams. A hopeless romantic, he seemed to not worry much about the serious things in life; student loans, grades, bills, the future. He used to read a lot of philosophy and at night, sing songs with his friends until dawn. Since I had to wake up for swim practice most mornings around 5 a.m., I unfortunately didn’t participate in his nocturnal forays.
Bless his heart though, he’d sneak to my window in the wee hours, “tap, tap, whisper whisper…J, wake up…” most nights I wouldn’t hear him; he’d tell me later that he had come to visit. It so happens that one night, he left me a little present: a cut-in-half can of Pabst Blue Ribbon filled with wildflowers, a note taped to the side.
“J, we are all exploded stars. You’re me, I’m you, Iraq is Afghanistan, Afghanistan is America. Be good to everyone, they are all you and me.”
I had no idea what he meant, but I knew it had to be philosophically important or something, so I kept that note for a long, long time trying to figure it out.
After 15 years, this weekend I did.
It was a smoldering hot afternoon, so my friend Holt and I took a walk to Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles. Exploring the exhibits, we gave thanks for the air conditioning. When we got to the star display, my mind literally blew up. There on the signs explaining the origin of the universe, it said what my college boyfriend had written so many years ago, that we are all made up of exploded stardust. Technically, “…carbon, nitrogen, and oxygen atoms in our bodies, as well as atoms of all other heavy elements, were created in previous generations of stars over 4.5 billion years ago. Because humans and every other animal as well as most of the matter on earth contains these elements, we are all literally made of star stuff…” (thanks Carl Sagan).
I have to admit, I had figured out that we are all interconnected a while ago, but when past and present weave together so seamlessly in one moment, it feels good!
So what does this mean to me and you today?
It means that there are really no divisions between humans; that we are all the same fundamentally and that helping others, understanding differences, and doing good in the world benefits everyone.
Though the world has always been precarious, volatile, beautiful, and confusing, to me it seems as though the last decade has been even more so. In light of all that is going on today, abroad and here in the good ‘ol USA, I’ve had to rationalize why, when our own country is in need of a kind heart and strong mind, am I choosing to leave it behind for Jordan?
In taking a step away from the metaphysical, it really boils down to the fact that any effort to enhance human lives, any effort to understand those that are different than ourselves helps everyone.
Einstein once said, “The world is a dangerous place to live in; not because of the people who are evil, but because of people who don’t do anything about it.”
I choose to do something about it.
I choose to leave my comfortable life behind and see with my own eyes the affect that war and civil unrest has on people, on nations. Working with nomads, foreign nationals, and refugees will be my life for the next year or two. I hope to learn, explore, love, and tell stories about all that I see so that you can see it too.
Because exploded stars, of course.