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Anna Robinson

ASTR 302

We Are Stardust

Is an idea of being connected and belonging enough for us to feel validated in our

existence? Is it enough for us to find meaning? These are the questions Neil deGrasse Tyson is

circling as he speaks of our connectivity to the universe at large. For him, the answer would seem

to be yes, it is enough. It is enough to know that I am made of the same matter that a whole

universe has been made of, because it is enough to know that I have a place within it. I, on the

other hand, would disagree. I am glad to be part of this universe, but being made of stardust can

only partly shape my view of who I am.

I will be among the first to admit that there is a sense of awe in realizing that I am made

of the same atoms that stars were made of - that there is whole universe beyond my imagination

that I am somehow connected to, and not only is it connection, but the whole universe would

seem to echo itself down to the very fabric of my being. I agree with Tyson: it is astounding. I

only differ because I believe its not enough. We all want to belong and to be relevant, but simply

being made of the same things and having our matter be the same matter that formed the stars is

not enough. If I believe I am only matter, then my conscious experience of life only has meaning

as far as I value my experience of that matter. Everything in the universe lives and dies. I will

die, just as the star that I am the dust of died before me. The difference is that I know it. To

whatever we understand or believe consciousness to be, I have cognitive, emotional, and

physical experience of the preliminaries of my dying. Stars do not. It is supposedly all part of

nature, and yet death to us still feels wrong. When someone commits suicide, in a materialist
sense, they have reached a point where their experience of matter is not of significant enough

value or meaning to them for their continued life. By the argument that our meaning comes from

a deep material connectivity to the universe, that connectivity continues whether we live or die.

It means our conscious experience - the difference between us and stars - is only important as

long as we can perceptually find value in it. This is why I disagree with Tyson: Im glad I belong

in this universe, but belonging doesnt necessitate a value of my lived experience, or that of

anyone else. I cannot accept that.

In concluding that the source of my matter is not enough to give my life meaning, I

would say that I find meaning in that as my physical presence is indelibly ordered into this

universe, I believe my experience of that presence to be equally purposed. My Christian

worldview doesnt give me belonging because Im made of stardust, but instead because I

believe matter, lived experience, and connection are given value by something beyond my

perception of them: they belong to God, and He so ordered them with value.