Nestled Under a Blanket of Stars

In the early hours of this morning I peeked out the window. A sliver of alabaster moon hung, tilted, like the one in a child’s book, cradling a drowsy child, draped and peaceful. The stars filled the cold steel sky. Orion, on his side was still slumbering. Shadows of trees fell across the ground. It was still. And quiet. And frosty.

This week I stumbled across this quote on the Center for Courage and Renewal’s site:

“There’s something magical about a night sky in December.
The stars seem somehow closer and crisper, as if they’re noticing me.
And if I pause long enough to notice them back, they’ll tell me their story.

It’s the story of how, in spite of the oceans and borders that seem to divide us,
all 7 billion humans sleep beneath the same night sky.
And we always have.
That’s a beautiful truth, don’t you think?”
–Terry Chadsey

I love this. We all, each one of us, with all our similarities and differences, sleep under the same night sky. We are all tucked in under the same primordial blanket. As we gaze upwards, billions of us search for the star formations that tell the stories we remember from childhood. There is the Greek tale of Orion boasting of his hunting skills, ready to kill all the animals when Gaia stopped him and raised his defeated body to the heavens. Hindus look up and recall the Mahabharata’s story of The Seven Rishis…. what we call The Big Dipper. In this Hindu tale it is not about our familiar bear, it is about the seven sages who make the sun rise and shine. In Africa the Nyae Nyae !Kung Bushmen see the sky and stars as the dwelling place of all the divine beings and spirits of the dead. Also from Africa  is the watching of Canopus, “one of the brightest stars in the night sky. It is widely known in southern Africa as Naka, “The Horn Star”. In Sotho tradition, a careful watch was kept for Naka about the end of May. Sotho chiefs awarded a cow for Naka’s earliest sighting. The day of the sighting the chief would call his medicine-men together. Throwing their bone dice, the doctors would judge whether the new season would be good or bad. The appearance of Naka also heralds coming of winter and browning of the veld. When Naka appeared before sunrise, the Tswana knew it was time to start breeding their sheep. In Venda tradition, the first person to see Nanga in the morning sky (in May, heralding winter) would climb a hill and blow the phalaphala (black sable antelope horn) and he would receive a cow as a prize. The Zulu knew Canopus as is Andulela, a messenger appearing at the end of Autumn, the harvest time, and also as in Khwenkwezi, “The Brilliant Star”. The Xam Bushmen believed that Canopus could influence the availability of ants’ eggs, a rich source of nourishment, and they called it “The Ant Egg Star”.” (Psychohistorian.com)

night sky

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/User:Rfkphoto

From the stars we did come.  We are not only, each one of us, called to sleep as the stars shine, but are made from them.

“The nitrogen in our DNA, the calcium in our teeth,
the iron in our blood, the carbon in our apple pies
were made in the interiors of collapsing stars.
We are made of starstuff.”
― Carl Sagan, Cosmos

The world is in such turmoil now. All the making of our advanced brains. The actual physical being of our planet is in pain. On fire. Drowning. Melting. Humans around the world are in pain from wars, famine, drought, flooding, persecution, violence, fear.

Yet, we are all made from the same star stuff that began longer ago than we can fathom. We all breathe the same air and rest under the same sky. We dream the same dreams under night fall and star shine. In our dreams we face our fears, find our true love, become champions and sometimes catch a glimpse of the future. We share with our children the constellation myths using whispered and strong voices, invoking the wonder and magic of the star animals and gods. With our sleep we offer a bit of time for our bodies, hearts and minds to be still, heal and recharge.

“When it  is dark enough, you can see the stars.”
― Ralph Waldo Emerson

It has to be dark enough to see the stars at night. Perhaps we can hope it also means that as this man made darkness falls around the world we may see individuals here and there who shine like guiding stars to help us remember while there is seemingly much that separates us, there is the also something greater that binds and bonds us together. This is a shared reverence we must find again and hold on to. Look up to the stars and know we are all made from them. We all share them and experience awe and wonder in their sparkle. How do we heal oursleves? How do we bridge the gaps created by ideaology, religion, power, dogma, fear, want, need? How do we learn again to care about “Others”? How does each one of us find the courage to let our own light shine, our voices rise up, our actions find conviction, so that we can find ways to embrace one another and find comfort and beauty nestled together under the blanket of stars?

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“Dwell on the Beauty of Life, Watch the Stars”

“Dwell on the beauty of life.
Watch the stars,
and see yourself running with them.”
Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

hubble2

(credit: NASA ans ESA)

“The nitrogen in our DNA, the calcium in our teeth,
the iron in our blood,
the carbon in our apple pies were made in
the interiors of collapsing stars.
We are made of starstuff.”
― Carl Sagan, Cosmos

It can be hard to find a place at night, free from light and clouds, where you can look up and understand the magnificent wonder of the Milky Way, other galaxies, and the universe.

It can be difficult to wrap your brain around the size of the universe. Of the numbers of stars, galaxies, planets, black holes, comets, asteroids, quasars…..out there. Or, that we are made of starstuff.

It can be humbling, in a good way, to think about our planet, our galaxy and the universe. To help us pause as we go through life caught up in all kinds of things. Feeling all kinds of emotions. And believing the stories we make up and tell ourselves about all kinds of things.

This post is kind of interactive. I hope you’ll take the time to listen and watch all the links.

“Beethoven tells you what it’s like to be Beethoven
and Mozart tells you what it’s like to be human.
Bach tells you what it’s like to be the universe.”
~Douglas Adams

Yo Yo Ma plays Bach’s “Sarabande”:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a1QzMNM94-s

or, Voices of Music playing Bach’s “Air”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pzlw6fUux4o

Now that you’re in the mood, pictures of the Universe from Hubble, “Spectacular Cosmos”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=St57hBxH_Fw

(If you’re up for it, you can open one of the music videos and also the Cosmos video in different tabs, should happen automatically, and mute the Spectacular Cosmos soundtrack and just listen to Bach to  understand what Douglas Adams meant in his quote.)

These celestial entities are no longer there. They died out millions of years ago but we can still see their light. The infinite vastness of the universe is difficult to understand. It helps us understand that our little Earth is just a pale blue dot. And while it gives us the perspective that life on Earth is a unique miracle, it reminds us it is also one of many millions, billions of miracles out there. We will never know the extent of those miracles.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5c3xuYs75IU

So,  while you “Dwell on the beauty of life. Watch the stars, and see yourself running with them.” also contemplate this:

“You are a function of what the whole universe is doing
in the same way that a wave
is a function of what the whole ocean is doing.” 

~Alan Watts

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z_6oRZsYPm0

Healing The World

I am always mindful of snippets of thoughts and words, ideas, beliefs that ignites something in me that may grow to become a blog post. This week it was a term I heard on NPR in a segment I was barely paying attention to. The flow and poetry of the words “Tikkun olam” caught my ear. I had missed the meaning while lost in the attention required by maneuvering through traffic.

Of course, when I got home, I began the search for the meaning of the word. The phrase is first found in the Jewish  Mishnah, a body of classical rabbinic teachings compiled in the 3rd Century. The current  and generally understood idea of Tikkun olam is that of “repairing the world” through human actions. It implies that humanity has a powerful responsibility to change, improve, and fix its earthly surroundings. Tikkun olam teaches that each person has a hand in working towards the betterment of his or her own existence as well as the lives of future generations. Tikkun olam calls people to responsibility, to take ownership of their world. In some writings the interpretation includes the obligation to “finish” the ordering, the blueprint of the world….God did not finish everything. God left famine, disease, etc. with the mission being for man to “finish” the work. The work of bringing about the end of injustice, disease, poverty, starvation, human strife.

spring3(Spring sunrise, photo by me)

(While this is a Jewish term, a Jewish teaching, I am not concerned with which religion says what, teaches what, in order to compare the value of one religion to another. It is not my intention to compare religions to determine which one is better, or the right one. I am interested in what all religions say and teach as a means of understanding human beings on this planet. Different cultures have heard God’s words and calls in many different ways and through many different people. I am not a religious scholar by any means, but I am compelled to learn about all religions in order to learn and to understand. I find it thought provoking to read about different religions and then to stand back and observe where we are as a world society in relation to exemplifying what “we” are “called” to do through our religion, and the degree to which we are being successful or not.)

It is a call to heal the world on all levels. I find that a powerful thought. A daunting responsibility. First it presents the idea there is something not quite right, something that needs to be and can be fixed…bettered, improved, healed. And then it calls us to take action, responsibility to do so. It includes the relief of human suffering, striving towards peace and mutual respect among all peoples, and the protection of the planet from human disregard, neglect and destruction.

“When we heal the earth, we heal ourselves.”
David Or

Ithaca NY, where I was raised and still live, was also the home of Carl Sagan for many years. Perhaps best known for his TV program, Cosmos, in 1980, he was the David Duncan Professor of Astronomy and Space Sciences and Director of the Laboratory for Planetary Studies at Cornell University. Here is a visually beautiful, intensely provoking video based on his book The Pale Blue Dot.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XH7ZRF6zNoc

We have to wake up. To take a stand to heal this world of ours, on all levels. There is so much healing to be done. We “have to deal more kindly with one another and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot. The only home we have ever known.”

“The visions we offer our children shape the future.
It matters what those visions are.
Often they become self-fulfilling prophecies.
Dreams are maps.”
Carl Sagan, Pale Blue Dot

What visions are we offering our children? Listen to the news. That’s what we are offering. Are these the self fulfilling prophecies we really want to set in motion for our children?

Consider this, a piece of the concept of  Tikkun olam:

“Or consider a story in the Jewish Talmud left out of the Book of Genesis. (It is in doubtful accord with the account of the apple, the Tree of Knowledge, the Fall, and the expulsion from Eden.) In The Garden, God tells Eve and Adam that He has intentionally left the Universe unfinished. It is the responsibility of humans, over countless generations, to participate with God in a “glorious” experiment – the “completing of the Creation.”
The burden of such a responsibility is heavy, especially on so weak and imperfect a species as ours, one with so unhappy a history. Nothing remotely like “completion” can be attempted without vastly more knowledge than we have today. But, perhaps, if our very existence is at stake, we will find ourselves able to rise to this supreme challenge.”
Carl Sagan, Pale Blue Dot

 What do you think? Can we rise to the challenge? Can we repair, heal the earth in all aspects? Are we able to take a long hard look at ourselves both as individuals and as a species? Are we ready to stand up to heal the physical world we live in and say no to blatant destruction and disregard for the planet? We speak for Earth.  We are the only ones who speak for Earth. Are we ready to deal more kindly with one another? Who speaks for the human species? Who indeed. Are we ready to accept the challenge of “completing the Creation”? If we are not able to work towards completing it what will happen? If we continue on this path what will happen? We are an “organism at war with ourselves.” (Carl Sagan.)

“On our small planet, at this moment, here we face a critical branch point in history.
What we do with our world, right now, will propagate down through the centuries and powerfully affect the destiny of our descendants.
It is well within our power to destroy our civilization and perhaps our species as well.
If we capitulate to superstition or greed or stupidity we could plunge our world into a time of darkness deeper than the time between the collapse of classical civilization 
and the Italian Renaissance.
But we are also capable of using our compassion and our intelligence, our technology and our wealth to make an abundant and meaningful life for every inhabitant of this planet.”
Carl Sagan

Let’s make these words these words the self fulfilling prophecy for our children. Let’s begin the process of healing, repairing…completing the world with these words:

But we are also capable of using our compassion and our intelligence,
our technology and our wealth to make an abundant
and meaningful life for every inhabitant
of this planet.”

Sources:
http://learningtogive.org/faithgroups/voices/mitzvah_tikkun_olam.asp
http://learningtogive.org/faithgroups/voices/mitzvah_tikkun_olam.asp
http://www.mishpacha.org/tzedakah.shtml
Pale Blue Dot by Carl Sagan, available on Amazon

 

Leave The Familiar For A While

All the Hemispheres

 Leave the familiar for a while.

Let your senses and bodies stretch out

Like a welcomed season
Onto the meadows and shores and hills.

Open up to the Roof.
Make a new water-mark on your excitement
And love.

Like a blooming night flower,
Bestow your vital fragrance of happiness
And giving
Upon our intimate assembly.

Change rooms in your mind for a day.
All the hemispheres in existence
Lie beside an equator
In your heart.

Greet Yourself
In your thousand other forms
As you mount the hidden tide and travel
Back home.

All the hemispheres in heaven
Are sitting around a fire
Chatting

While stitching themselves together
Into the Great Circle inside of
You.

Hafez

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(December 30, 2014, photo by me)

Many of the poems by Hafez blow me away. This one took my breath away. My yoga teacher read it before our Saturday meditation and I heard my heart and mind sing “Ohhhhh…”, “Ahhhhhhh.”

Right now, for me, so much is about leaving the familiar, allowing my senses and body to stretch out. I am changing rooms in my mind.

All the hemispheres in heaven
Are sitting around a fire
Chatting

While stitching themselves together
Into the Great Circle inside of
You.

What a wonderful image…the hemispheres of heaven, chatting and stitching themselves into the Great Circle inside of me. It reminds me of Alan Watts and Carl Sagan.

“You are an aperture through which the universe is looking at and exploring itself.”
Alan Watts

“You are a function of what the whole universe is doing in the same way that a wave is a function of what the whole ocean is doing.”
Alan Watts

“Through our eyes, the universe is perceiving itself. Through our ears, the universe is listening to its harmonies. We are the witnesses through which the universe becomes conscious of its glory, of its magnificence.”
Alan Watts

“The nitrogen in our DNA, the calcium in our teeth, the iron in our blood, the carbon in our apple pies were made in the interiors of collapsing stars. We are made of starstuff.”
Carl Sagan

“We are a way for the cosmos to know itself.”
Carl Sagan

There is so much about the things we live daily that are not “life”. It is a story. If you think about it, what happens when you go to sleep? Where do “you” go? You have no conscious recollection of what “you” are doing, or who “you” are when you are asleep….and when you “wake” up you believe you are “you”. “You” are more than that.

All the hemispheres in existence
Lie beside an equator
In your heart.

Greet Yourself
In your thousand other forms

Greet yourself in your thousand other forms…..your sleeping form, your joyful form, your heart form, your grief form, your Great Circle form. Our thousand forms all lead us on different paths towards different things. One “self” might be on a path of patience, or determination. Perhaps another is on a path of justice or love. Yet another “self” may be walking you towards discovery and transformation. Greet each “self” as a dear friend and get to know them intimately. Give each one room to grow.

Leave the familiar. Change rooms. Walk across the hall. Leave the familiar room with the warm, comforting flicker of firelight and soft music that moves your soul and open the door to enter a room of coolness, silence, where an open window lets in the moonlight of a cold winter night. Hear the owl call, see the star fall through the sparkling sky of the universe.

Like a blooming night flower,
Bestow your vital fragrance of happiness
And giving
Upon our intimate assembly.

Give of your self. Your compassion, gentleness, hopefulness, patience, tolerance. Leave the familiar for a while and see where you go.

Found this on Youtube. Let me know what you think.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zgCKNpWkYbQ