I Am Star Stuff
After a photon is born in the nuclear reactions of the Sun’s core, it could take between 100,000 and 50 million earth-years for it to reach the star’s surface and escape into space. From there, it takes 8 earth-minutes and 20 earth-seconds for the visible light to reach our planet — a significant amount of time from my perspective (I tend to get annoyed when people are 8 minutes late to meetings at work).
My morning train ride from West Oakland Station to San Francisco’s Civic Center takes 11 minutes, plus a 7 minute bike ride, plus a 10 minute walk, leaving a 9.9 mile total commute in 28 minutes. During that time, I will bump shoulders with any of approximately 75 people per car, pass 34 pedestrians, and watch as about 55 automobiles pass, carrying ~ 1.2 passengers each. The public transit carries even more. During these hours, I could also catch the wandering, deadened stare of one of 500 bus commuters as they move from here to there in a city spanning one fifty-thousandth of 1% of the earth’s total surface. These 675 people I might see during my commute are a only a few of the 107 billion who have ever been born. They speak over a dozen languages. In their bodies, they carry atoms which were also forged in the centers of stars and then recycled through plants, oceans, dinosaurs, rocks, and many of the other 107 billion people who have ever been born. Some are rich, some are hungry, some are oppressed, some are survivors, all are brilliant. They carry with them hundreds of thousands of story-hours coded in language, and music, and memory, each informing their mood, posture, and reaction to passing eye-contact.
One Friday–a few earth-weeks ago, I looked very briefly into the eyes of one person, who was wearing a red baseball hat. They smiled at me.
When I think about the light that carried this image to my eyes and understanding, I am overwhelmed by the magic of it all: I can only experience an unimaginably small piece of Everything. Still, that which is mine in so precious because it is so unique. Perhaps, we should honor each other, considering our shared obscurity. Perhaps, we should remain humble, considering how much we will never know.
I am a one-of-a-kind perspective of space and time that is simultaneously sacred and insignificant.
I am Elliot.
I hope that you are glad that you’re you.