Remember Where We Came From. Remember Where We Go.
When the going gets hard, look above for a little relief, however you choose to see it.
Context is everything, especially when life kicks us in the junk. In times of mental health struggles, a few things help us take anxiety and depression in step: exercise, meditation, journaling, medication. For some, one overarching idea about the great skies above may help put the wildly complex quagmire in context, and it’s not always religious.
Humans have different views on the afterlife: whether there is one, what it looks like, if resurrection exists, and a myriad of other ideas. The impact of life after death on our mental health has often been debated.
40% of Americans believe there’s an afterlife; are they afforded more or less anxiety because of it? No one knows. The topic is as limitless as the skies above. Clear and easy answers are as far away as the galaxy’s edge, obscured by light years of cosmic pollution.
Where does our perceived place in The Great Unknown leave our mental health?
“We are stardust…”, goes the old song. Billion-year-old carbon. Golden. The beauty of the lyric is the truth held within it. Stardust is comprised of all the same elements we find on earth: carbon, helium, hydrogen, and more. Over 40,000 tons of this cosmic dust falls to earth each year, as it has since the great geologist in the sky started sprinkling it many millennia ago. A great periodic table of life is swimming in our cells and bloodstreams. It’s truly awesome, isn’t it? We literally are stardust.
Let’s rewind though. Imagine a stone, carved from the greater earth into a smooth rounded nugget on the riverbed. Its origin is space—all minerals begin in the sky. But as millennia pass, the stone is chipped away at by swirling, sub-marine sediment, and the gentle, constant roll of the river to the sea. Smaller and smaller, each stone breaks down until it becomes soil deposited in a muddy delta. Farmers work the soil to grow plants, which are eaten by animals. Those animals are us. That stardust is us. We grow old. We die. Our next hungry animal. We are timeless.
Feeling small can help in big ways. So can feeling big. Knowing that we are made of stardust does both. Our bodies can be as glorious and gigantic as the celestial bodies that rule our zodiacs, or we can identify with being so minute that we fall into obscurity. It’s a magical contrast. There are gods in the dust and there is stardust in god. Whichever way you look at it, there can be relief.
When we think about death or illness or our daily struggles this mindset can help. When friends or family pass away, we believe they are lost to our physical world. Some of us embrace the idea that they retire to heaven. Others believe this is where it ends, the blackness wrapping around us, stealing away our loved ones for eternity. But true final loss is simply not true.
We are dinosaur blood and bone, recycled through carbon’s infinite path. Our bodies are built from the exact same atoms that swirled in the cosmic soup billions of years ago. Our hair and our hearts holding the same cells as ancient traders, sailors, kings and peasants. We are woolly mammoths and extinct birds. We are trees, rain, mountains, and long-extinguished fires.
Keep in mind, this is a fact. Not fiction. You walk amongst your friends and family today as a biological jigsaw puzzle of countless creatures and vegetation before you. And when you die, you will take parts of them with you, to the proverbial grave, and beyond. You are immortal. You are stardust.
We may be immortal but life itself is short. When life gets overwhelming just remember these three simple things: Be Human. Be Kind. Be You.