No, not the Hoagy Carmichael song. I mean literal stardust—the stellar debris that makes up the stuff of the universe. At least the universe we know about!
Astronomy Picture of the Day (or APOD to its aficionados) is the best site on the internet. Today they gave us a genesis story from the Book of Chemistry:
We are all stardust. Everything is. We only share our atoms with the earth and other living things. They don’t belong to us. We are like words on a Scrabble board. Assembled and displayed for oh-so-brief a time and then broken down and scrambled up again.
This fact alone should liberate humankind from prejudice. We are all just dust devils. We swirl into existence and swirl out again in the blink of an eye. We all have the same origin. We all have the same fate. And, to reiterate, we are all made of the same stuff, and none of that stuff is ours in any sense of the word. It’s just a temporary organization that results in something amazing.
The Book of Genesis has its own creation story, of course:
Then the Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life . . . (2:7 NIV)
There’s that dust again. Dust is an old Saxon word and similar words appear in Norse and German. It can mean “smoke” or “vapor” as well as “meal-dust” (the fine debris from grinding grain).
We’ve been re-watching Breaking Bad and we were treated to Mr. White asking his class “what is the subject of chemistry about?” One student suggested “it’s about chemicals.” But Mr. White said, “no, it’s about change.”
Next time you are dusting think about the stuff you are sweeping away as the foundation materials of a future world!