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According to scientists, in the very early universe, there were particles, which became hydrogen atoms after protons were developed. (It makes sense, right? Hydrogen in its usual phase has a single proton.) When stars were formed, nuclear fusion caused hydrogen to convert into helium. During the later phases of stars, carbon was also formed from radioactivity. To make it a short story, all materials in this universe- including the things that make up humans- are born from stars.
The substance that we are made up of is actually ancient: they have been through five stars. (In case you didn’t know, stars are constantly being created and destroyed.) I know that perhaps it appears that I’m just repeating what Carl Sagan said, in a much less sophisticated manner, but I swear I thought of this before I knew about Carl Sagan!
Anyway, how is it that we feel disconnected from each other? We do not feel like we’re part of each other, or part of nature. Most of us feel like individual beings. It is spectacular how we developed this sort of individual consciousness if we are solely descendents of the birth and collapse of the recycling process of stars.
*In case you wanted to read what I was referring to, here is the quote from Sagan:
We are a way for the cosmos to know itself. We are creatures of the cosmos and always hunger to know our origins, to understand our connection with the universe. How did everything come to be? Every culture on the planet has devised its own response to the riddle posed by the universe. Every culture celebrates the cycles of life and nature. There are many different ways of being human.
But, an extraterrestrial visitor examining the differences among human societies would find those differences trivial compared to the similarities. We are one species. We are star stuff harvesting star light. Our lives, our past and our future are tied to the sun, the moon and the stars. Our ancestors knew that their survival depended on understanding the heavens. They built observatories and computers to predict the changing of the seasons by the motions in the skies. We are all of us descended from astronomers.
The discovery that there is order in the universe, that there are laws of nature, is the foundation on which science is built on today. Our conception of the cosmos — all of modern science and technology –is traced back to questions raised by the stars. Yet, even 400 years ago we had still no idea of our place in the universe. The long journey to that understanding required both an unflinching respect for the facts and a delight in the natural world.
Johannes Kepler wrote: “We do not ask for what useful purpose the birds do sing, for song is their pleasure since they were created for singing. Similarly, we ought not to ask why the human mind troubles to fathom the secrets of the heavens. The diversity of the phenomena of nature is so great and the treasures hidden in the heavens so rich precisely in order that the human mind shall never be lacking in fresh enrichment.”
It is the birthright of every child to encounter the cosmos anew in every culture in every age. When this happens to us, we experience a deep sense of wonder. The most fortunate among us are guided by teachers who channel this exhilaration. We are born to delight in the world; we are taught to distinguish our preconceptions from the truth. Then, new worlds are discovered as we decipher the mysteries of the cosmos.