“I just don’t get it,” a friend told me recently. “You talk about us being stardust, about being made of the same stuff as the whole of the universe, about worshipping a cosmic God. I don’t feel connected to a galaxy out there in space somewhere.”
I do feel that connection. I find it mind-blowing that that all of us, all of everything, emerged from the same cataclysmic explosion. Whoosh! We are pieces of a gigantic jigsaw puzzle, where every piece is intimately related to every other piece, and every piece is essential to the whole.
I feel it. But I have trouble explaining it.
Then I thought of the lake out beyond my front windows. Anyone who lives by a lake occasionally throws stones into it.
The stone makes a splash. Ripples spread from the splash. As they spread, they dissipate. They grow weaker. But the ripples never fully disappear. Those ripples keep going right to the far end of the lake, even if individual ripples are no longer detectable as they blend with all the other ripples on the lake.
The ripples closest to the splash are the biggest. Steepest. Strongest. Most easily identified.
I think of the closest ring of ripples as my immediate family. They matter more to me than anything else. Although I am committed to non-violence, I would abandon that conviction in seconds if they were in danger.
The next ripple outwards might be my friends. They too matter to me, but not quite as much.
The ripples continue to expand. My local community, perhaps. The organizations I support. Or my environment—the garden I nurture, the woods I go walking in, the beach I throw stones from.
Somewhere farther out are ripples for my country, my ancestors, my profession. I feel a connection to them, but not as much as to my family and friends.
So no, I don’t feel any particular kinship to Galaxy CL J1001+0220—recently discovered by NASA at 11.1 billion lightyears away from Earth. My puny ripples will have been pretty fully dissipated by the time they get there.
But—and here’s the point—I must not think of myself as standing on the shore making ripples in a lake. I am not even the rock thrown into the lake. I am the splash.
As long as I think of myself as separate from the lake, I can never fully identify with the universe I live in.
I am not separate from the lake, or from my ripples. I am part of the lake.
Whatever I do to the lake will inevitably affect me. I am the part of the lake closest to any toxins or poisons I dump into it.
I am not separate. I am the splash; I am the lake.
The wise ones have long known this truth. The prose poem known as Desiderata said, back in 1927, “You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars.” Joni Mitchell wrote, “We are stardust, we are golden, We are billion year old carbon…”
We all make our own ripples in the universal pond. But we are all in the same pond.