The Reflection of StarDust

by Nicholas Henkey — on  , 


Every weekend I take time out of my Saturday to clean my apartment. On my work from home Friday weeks, I do a deep clean; on the other weekends (this upcoming weekend) I do a basic cleaning. Deep cleaning means taking on larger tasks such as full sweeping, mopping, counter-scrubs, dusting, and much more. While this does not sound like an awesome time, the philosopher in me cannot help but enjoy reflecting while doing mindless work.


A while back, my company was invited to a sunset cruise in the harbor here in San Diego and it was quite beautiful to watch the sun set. I had been thinking a little more about space, planets, and moons than usual. It was interesting to see the waxing crescent hovering over Jupiter, hovering over Venus, hovering over the setting sun on the horizon.

I’ll never get over the realization I had 12 years ago that all of the planets orbit around the sun on the same plane... like a disk... matched to the rotation of the sun itself.

More fascinating still, to many, is that we are made up of material from dead stars gone supernova. We are stardust.

The way that we know this is that the universe expanded (technically) faster than the speed of light very early on in its life due to space itself warping from the sheer output of energy. As a consequence of this expansion, light from the far reaches of the universe is very old and observing it gives us the opportunity to look ”back in time”, so to speak. Old light allows us to see what kind of the stars and galaxies produced energy at the time (stars are known to put out different light frequencies depending on chemical composition). The stars we see when looking through powerful telescopes use only the raw material from the “Big Bang”... being mostly Hydrogen, some Helium, and trace amounts of Lithium (if I’m not mistaken).

Knowing these facts means that heavier materials were manufactured after the Big Bang, and we can actually observe the output of these materials from stars gone supernova. To my understanding, no one else has observed this behavior from any other naturally occurring phenomenon... despite our best efforts. Humans even attempted to create heavier materials from lighter quite frequently in the middle ages; they were known as alchemists. They failed.


Stars were born of the universe. Extending from the fact that we are made of dead stars, much like Earth itself, we are made of the universe. Our consciousness was born out of a long string of events including material emerging from seeming nothingness, stars being born and dying, and accretion of new stars and planets out of that recycled material. Some believe that our consciousness was developed so that the universe could observe itself. This gets even more deep if you look into Emergence Theory, which postulates that the universe is, in fact, conscious.

If you are wondering, yes, I believe that the universe itself has some form of conciousness.

So now you can see that we are consciousness born within consciousness, evolved and created (in my opinion, by choice) so that the root consciousness could observe itself. The materials that make us are born within these incredible objects that we call stars. This material is recycled from even more incredible and larger stars!


Of course, I was thinking this as I was face-down in the toilet, thinking about how I am made of carbon and water, and my toilet is made of clay which is from other medium-weight elements and compounds. Both the toilet and I are made of stars and I was observing myself clean the toilet so that bacteria do not grow and kill me. As I did this I started to wonder why the universe could not do better and more interesting things...

What kind of sick and twisted consciousness would create a new consciousness so that it could observe itself cleaning up literal shit?


And then I remembered something else. No one knows what they are doing, we’re all making it up as we go along, and we all need to strive to do better. Maybe that’s something we have in common with the universe itself.

I find this all to be absurdly humorous… maybe Camus would be proud…