The Universal Stuff of Us

From earliest times we have wondered about our existence and our connection to the stars. Many myths and stories reveal our longing to return to the skies, as if we are trying to remember how to fly home. We wonder about the return trip after this adventure, our life, is over.

We are a way for the universe to know itself. Some part of our being knows this is where we came from.

We long to return. And we can, because the cosmos is also within us. We’re made of star stuff.  

~ Carl Sagan ~

This “star stuff” is the stuff of our minds as well as of the natural world. In our art and our philosophy we explore the questions of who we are and from whence we came. This spiritual universe is more personal yet eternal, emotional rather than rational. It is the light in our stars, this comfort from the cosmos when we look to home.

The physical universe is one of rational laws, measurable and impersonal. Essentially, these laws are true throughout the physical universe until proven otherwise. Continual discovery and exploration of the cosmos seems to be what makes or breaks such laws yet in the physical universe constant inquiry is essential for law.

There is room for both a spiritual universe and a physical universe,

just as there is room for both religion and science.

Each universe has its own power.

Each has its own beauty and mystery.

~ Alan Lightman ~

Wave upon the water 0514

To recognize and appreciate the uniqueness of the physical as well as the spiritual universe is to observe life with a sense of wonder. In wonder, the physical and the spiritual do not contradict but co-exist so we are able to observe both.

In the observer effect, the act of observing influences what is being observed. One of the many marvels of science is that attributes and behaviors invisible to the naked eye are still observable.

We cannot see the law of gravity or the Higgs boson. We are left observing that what goes up comes down, although the law of gravity is much more than that. The Higgs boson may be observed after protons collide about a trillion times but even after all that, its existence lasts less than a billionth of  a trillionth of a second. Even so, the boson is observed only because of what it becomes.

Life begins 0514

In the more personal spiritual universe, belief systems underlie our reactions. Do we observe every event or experience with our complete attention or are we more concerned with how to respond?

My sense is that our observation is obscured. If an event is familiar, we search for a previous and similar response; if an experience is unknown, we search for some kind of  familiarity so we can respond. We are not observing fully so our influence is incomplete as well.

The biggest communication problem is we do not listen to understand.

We listen to reply.*

We may be missing the wonder of being alive, of being part of this adventure that is both spiritual and physical, each universe complete in its beauty and mystery. We are star dust, this universal stuff of us. Ours is a guaranteed round-trip. Why not observe this life with wonder?


*This quote seems not to have an attributable source.

Reading Alan Lightman’s The Accidental Universe: The World You Thought You Knew is like having your own personal guide to the cosmos. In my post “No Separation of Time and Space Here,” Kay mentioned this Lightman work as well as his novel, Einstein’s Dreams.  I enjoyed both immensely. Thank you!

A recent post from Tiramit mentions the observer effect in his thoughtful post, “Responsibility & Mindfulness.” Thank you!

20 thoughts on “The Universal Stuff of Us

    1. I am so glad you posted this song; it ran through my head as I wrote the post. And still we have “got to get ourselves back to the garden.” Thanks, Ann!


  1. This resonates deeply with me, Karen. I’m reading Quantum Activist by Amit Goswami. Goswami talks about the dialectic of scientific materialism and quantum science. He posits that quantum science aligns with spirit. It reminds me of Krishnamurti’s “the observer is the observed.” I really feel a shift towards spirit, quantum physics, and star dust. {{{Hugs}}} Kozo


    1. We really are stardust, literally, and in our oneness, the “observer is the observed” as well. I remember Deepak Chopra saying that “we are all God in different disguises.” We are this incredible energy of existence having all of these experiences, and what a wonder it is! Thanks, Kozo!


  2. I love this: “In the more personal spiritual universe, belief systems underlie our reactions. Do we observe every event or experience with our complete attention or are we more concerned with how to respond?” I am so often guilty of allowing my belief system to dictate reactions that keep me from ever genuinely engaging with the present moment. I’m getting better at disconnecting from those, but I’ve still got a long way to go!

    Thank you for such a thoughtful – and thought provoking – post.


    1. And the rest of us are right there with you, Kenetha, as we let go to engage in what is occurring so that we can appreciate the spiritual, the physical and the wonder and beauty of both, denying neither but rather, observing. I, too, have a long way to go. Thanks so much!


  3. Thanks for an interesting post. This quote really says it all: ‘The biggest communication problem is we do not listen to understand. We listen to reply.’ It’s the Mind part of the mind/body duo wired to be always jumping ahead of things? My feeling is the best way to understand how we observe events is by thinking of it in terms of conscious experience. If the mind encounters something unknown it attempts to interpret first and it’ll race through the memory files to find the nearest match. I’ve noticed this sometimes, getting on a bus in a city in some country I don’t know at all (this has happened a few times). I’ll smell a perfume or fragrance of soap coming from a passenger nearby and the mind immediately throws me in a spin trying to identify a location where I experienced it before – my whole childhood flashes by maybe. Eventually it stops doing that, and I can experience the presence of this new smell being there. Before that there is a moment of unsupported consciousness…


    1. What a thoughtful description of how we meet the moment. The mind has its role as do I as observer, and it is to that point that the quote serves, at least for me. If we observe completely, then our influence, whatever it is, is complete to the occurrence and not to the mind. That is where I am these days. I am intrigued by your phrase “moment of unsupported consciousness.” Indeed, I have been thinking about your comment these past few days. It is much appreciated.


      1. Apologies, now I’m thinking maybe here I stretched the context a bit to fit what I was trying to say. We are, as you say, complete to the occurrence and not to the mind. I was thinking that the mind is likely to respond to the event in the same way as all the other senses respond – consciousness of the object. And there’s the situation of consciousness without an object, just awareness itself – listening to understand…


        1. My turn for apologies, although I doubt an apology is required for I suspect we both appreciate the opportunity to discuss “consciousness without an object”–what a lovely description that is–yet words are what we have to exchange our experiences. And each of us brings an individual (or unique) experience to each word we select, a similarity to our senses. Before any of that, however, is that “moment of unsupported consciousness,” pure awareness. Thank you and again, much appreciated.


  4. Another wonderful post that sends my thoughts spinning off in lateral and positive directions – thank, you, Karen! We are, indeed, made of the dust of the stars; and so too is almost all that we see around us – it is literally the stuff of our thoughts, for we are made of carbon born in a supernova. And as you point out, it is also the stuff of our thoughts, in other ways. A conceptual leap – and a conceptual link. It is comforting to think that our thoughts, inspired by and infused with star-stuff, can evoke a sense of wonder. As, of course, they should; for I think that sense of wonder is part of what makes us human.


    1. For me, it is wondrous that, literally, we are star dust in our thoughts and natural world, carbon born in a supernova as you point out. When I got to thinking about that, especially after reading Alan Lightman (and remembering your previous comments on my two posts on magic), the observer effect expanded into hope for me. Certainly, our sense of wonder is the better part of us. So glad you enjoyed the post, Matthew! Thanks so much.


  5. When you said “the act of observing influences what is being observed” it made me think of one of the key concepts in “A Course in Miracles,” that we are unable, in our normal state of consciousness, to distinguish between what is, and what we project with our minds. The daily lesson I opened to this morning took that question to a higher level: “God is in everything I see because God is in my mind.”


    1. Ah, synchronicity, perhaps? It seems in observing fully we open ourselves to discovery just as each moment does in its unfolding. I am still wrapping my head around that but in those nanoseconds that I am the observer, I do not attach or grasp for I just am as is all that is unfolding. Thanks so much, Craig, for sharing your reading of “A Course in Miracles.” I find it fascinating.


  6. The thing that obscures our sense of wonder most is self-consciousness. How is our reaction to what is happening being perceived by the rest of the audience? Wonder requires becoming invisible to ourselves, and that is so difficult to achieve. Beautiful post Karen.


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