Remember You Are Stardust

Ash Wednesday 2021

Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?

—Mary Oliver

As a father cares for his children, so does the Lord care for those who fear him. For he himself knows whereof we are made; he remembers that we are but dust. Our days are like the grass; we flourish like a flower of the field; When the wind goes over it, it is gone, and its place shall know it no more.

Remember you are dust, and to dust you shall return.

The first time I heard that phrase, I found it depressing, even morbid. Definitely not a phrase fitting for a Christian church service.

Until you start to understand dust.

One of the nicknames for the Camino is the Milky Way, as it follows the direction of the Milky Way in the sky. 

The first time I saw the Milky Way was in Cave Junction, Oregon. Cave Junction is a tiny, hippie town with low light pollution due to its remote location and lack of services.

We laid out blankets on the grass and waited for the sun to set before heading out to stargaze. When the moon is absent during the new moon phase, the sky is brilliant. First the brightest stars start peeking out on the horizon opposite the sunset. Then the whole of the heavens fills the night sky—our own personal glimpse into outer space. 

Once the darkness became thick like a blanket, the stars in the middle started to swirl together to form a purple cloud above our heads. We were showered in shooting stars and bathed in the Milky Way that night. 

At first, you feel small when looking at the vastness of the universe as the arms of our galaxy swirl around the sky. Realizing your own smallness can be overwhelming, until you realize that the very same stuff that makes up each star and planet in the purple kaleidoscope sky is all the same stuff in your body. It took an infinite number of miracles for you to end up exactly where you are right now and exactly how you are right now.

The amazing thing is that every atom in your body came from a star that exploded. And, the atoms in your left hand probably came from a different star than your right hand. It really is the most poetic thing I know about physics: You are all stardust.

Lawrence M. Krauss, A Universe from Nothing: Why There Is Something Rather Than Nothing

Remember you are stardust—remember you are made of the same atoms as everything else in the galaxy. Once a star and now connected to all humans and all life around you. Your very being created using the particles that were ejected from a dying star and drifting through the Milky Way. You're stardust. Each atom strengthened through pressure and supernova and time. Just like you—pressed and broken and stretched to your limit. You get stronger, but stay you. The catastrophic death of a star making way for life. Again. And again. And again. There is no resurrection without death. 

Life is short and but a vapor. 

What will you do with your one dusty life?

Remember you are stardust, and to stardust you shall return.