In 1996, when I was 8, I was obsessed with Astronomy. I saved up and went to the Discovery Store at the Mall of America and spent my money on a telescope. This was probably the end of 3rd grade, over the summer gap, and the first half of 4th grade. I spent most of my nights outside looking at stars. This was when the Comet Hale-Bopp was at it’s height of popularity and curiosity. I remember, vaguely, the cults and the superstitions around the Comet. I wasn’t really at an age where I could say I cared about that stuff. What I cared about was the stars. The light from thousands of miles away in the universe. This light that permeated the night sky. I spent those months reading about stars and learning the constellations. I could tell you where the planets where in the night sky, when you could see Venus and Mars, which lights in the sky where Jupiter and Saturn because of the way they reflected light. (There’s a difference between the gas planets and non-gas planets. The Gas is more reflective of the Sun’s light.) I knew the stories behind the constellations. How Cassiopeia was the mother who tied her daughter, Andromeda to a rock and left her for dead. How Orion and his dog, Canis Major, were mighty hunters. I learned everything I could about the universe and our solar system. I prided myself on knowing the planets, being able to name them in order and where the names came from. I loved this so much. Stars, Planets, Comets, Nebulas and The Universe. I lost interest in it about 6 months later, the die hard love for it flittered away, and was replaced again by history for a time, then I delved into the dark once I hit middle school. I didn’t realize that I had already spent time in the dark, out in the backyard looking at the stars.
I had continued to have an occasional flirtation with Astronomy. When I was 8, I wanted to be an Astronomer, but that idea was quickly dashed when I realized how much math was involved. I have never understood math. I was never geared toward Math and Science, I hated taking those classes in school, and managed to get by with minimal effort. I wish I had learned how to understand it, and like it. I’m not well versed in the mechanics behind Physics. I’ve been drawn to it though. I ended up briefly dating a Math/Physics Major, and a Theoretical Physicist. But they never really talked about it with me. Those relationships were brief for a reason, we didn’t have much in common. I think they liked the facts and evidence behind all of it, and I loved the poetic awe inspiring aspect of The Universe. The way that poets refer to stars and how you can look up at the night sky and feel so small, but connected at the same time.
In more recent bouts with my personal darkness, I have returned to the Stars as a beacon of hope. To try to squash the darkness within by using the external darkness as a way to remind myself that while my problems are important, in the end they will end with me. Those thoughts I have, and the lies I tell myself will not continue after I die. The cycles of up and down, and the depression I have will not last beyond that last breath. Thinking about death is intimidating, it is a literal end to our consciousness and to these lives we lead. But when I look up and see the illumination cast on our atmosphere by stars so far away, and remember that most of those stars are probably dead and gone. It can be kind of a comforting thought, that even after we are physically gone, we can leave a light behind. We can leave a legacy for those in the future to possibly find some comfort in.
I see these things on the internet all the time, of how we are made of stars. Our bodies and every thing single on this planet, from person to car to plant to sea to rock was created out of a star that died long ago. I suppose you could argue that we are born out of death. The atoms in our bodies came from different stars and different places in the universe. They came from different points in time and space to create us. Our specific make up of atoms is unique to us. No one else will ever have those same atoms in that particular arrangement ever again. I always thought that beautifully poetic. That we are genuinely unique. Our atoms, our thoughts, our memories, our experiences are all unique to us. We have common threads with others, but the particular arrangement of all of those is purely ours. We own that. I suppose you could argue that we don’t own it, that we are merely renting it. I guess that depends on your specific belief system. I’ve struggled with faith and questioned it. I was raised Lutheran. I was baptized, confirmed and went to sunday school. I believed in God, but it felt so similar to believing in Santa Claus for me. That if I believe in this man, and do good I will be rewarded. Of course as a kid, I just wanted the toys, so I would be good for that. I was an angry Atheist for a while, and I felt so strongly about it. That people who believe in some kind of higher power are just deluding themselves. I don’t subscribe to that anymore. People will believe a multitude of things in their lives, and I’m not in a position to say that one belief system is any better than another. I’m not okay with people pushing their specific beliefs on to another person, and I’m not okay with people getting up on a soap box decrying anything other than their own. I think that belief can be a source of comfort for some people, while they try to make sense of their lives and their place in the universe. I’m not going to take that away from people. This world can be a huge and scary place, and any kind of good comfort we can get and use should be supported. Pushing one way because you believe is it the right way is not okay. The world is diverse for a reason, we need to celebrate our differences and revel in our commonalities. The Universe is a scary enough place without us at each other’s throats. It seems, to me, to be a waste of time and of our short time on this planet. Especially when there are so many people wandering around in their own darkness. We should be helping each other to find the light and the joy, and to carry each other through those dark times. Instead of ignoring it and allowing us to succumb to our own personal hells. We are all representative of the universe. We are made of stardust, we should f*cking act like it.
Without that darkness I have lived in, I could not cherish the idea of there being light within me. Of there being a chance of my light peeking out through the darkness that seemed to blanket me so heavily. For years there were no stars in my sky, it was nothing more than an absolute all consuming black that was ravenous. It would have consumed me whole if I submitted to it. For a long time I did. I surrendered to it, and allowed it to permeate my thoughts, to cloud them with a gloomy haze. To overwhelm my heart, to freeze and it make it feel unusable. I felt that my brain was useless and my heart wouldn’t beat. I felt stripped of my humanity. I was on my fifth round of anti-depressants, and this was the time I finally let them work. It was just enough to get a kick in the ass to start working on what I need to. It’s a long process to come out of a pitch black night, to begin to poke holes in your dark sky to allow the light in. The stars in my sky are slowly starting to come out, and I find comfort in that. There aren’t as many as I would like, but it’s a slow process. I have to remember to be patient, for it will come with it’s ready. You can’t force yourself to purge that darkness out in one fell swoop. I wish it worked like that, but alas, it doesn’t. Nothing does. Anything worth having in life, will be hard work. You may sacrifice things along way, and the path will not be clear, and most likely be bumpy and rocky, but you have to keep your eye on the prize at the end of it.