Stardust, poetry and theoretical physics

21st December 2014


{This is Part Three in a series of posts about me & God: click for Part One and Part Two}

After ‘The Sky Thing’, they were everywhere.

I turned on Radio 4 to a discussion about constellations, images of nebulas flooded my Pinterest feed, conversations of random strangers overheard on the Tube were about the cosmos, the night sky, celestial life.

It seemed to me that through all of these synchronicities, the stars were trying to tell me something.

I know how that sounds. And then I found Lawrence Krauss – a theoretical physicist and cosmologist who wrote a few lines that still feel to me, like the truthiest of all truths:

“Every atom in your body came from a star that exploded. And, the atoms in your left hand probably came from a different star than your right hand. It really is the most poetic thing I know about physics: You are all stardust. You couldn’t be here if stars hadn’t exploded, because the elements – the carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, iron, all the things that matter for evolution and for life – weren’t created at the beginning of time. They were created in the nuclear furnaces of stars, and the only way for them to get into your body is if those stars were kind enough to explode. So, forget Jesus. The stars died so that you could be here today.”

I was made of stardust. Bloody hell.

Somehow this Irrefutable Fact by a big-brained scientist increased my tolerance for the car crash that was my life.

I became kind of obsessed with this idea that we are literally, made of stardust. It became a mantra replaying over and over in my mind during meetings, the daily commute and before I went to sleep.

One morning I walked into a tattoo parlour in Soho and had nine stars inked onto my wrist.

I let myself imagine another life. I fantasised about what it would feel like to leave work and know I never had to go back.

And then Samantha at Bentlily asked me to write a poem for her site.

Everything came to life one Sunday night, as I sat at the writing desk in the corner of our living room, filled with the Monday Dreads.

I wrote this in a few minutes (which never happens) and titled it: ‘At 3:42 on Tuesday afternoon she left her accidental seventeen-year career in the public service’

On the fifth floor of the tower of steel and glass
and responsibility
she makes a dash for the lift –
and is gone.
Her former future scatters
like marbles on a marble floor.
She would set tongues wagging in the communal kitchen
because something has made a nonsense of her.
It had taken a thousand years to get there
but people she doesn’t know
smile back.
She cartwheels on grass, wears clothes-pegs in her hair.
She wonders at how long she waited
for a turn at the head of the queue.
It is like being given what you wanted:
the perfect espresso you hadn’t reckoned on.
Like a blessing
you didn’t know you needed.

After three days and one meeting with my Director, the poem came true.

I walked out of the office for the last time with the 12 weeks notice I was contracted to give them, paid to me. It felt utterly miraculous.

For almost two decades I had believed I was expected to have the answers, to be confident, to be certain. And I had planned and controlled and made things happen through stoic dogged determination. But after The Sky Thing, my deep and abiding ambition evaporated.

In those few seconds of wonder, some part of me had died.

I didn’t know why this was happening. I couldn’t explain any of it other than to suspect that somehow it was all connected – the stars, the poem, the miraculous turn of events that meant I was free – but free to do what, exactly?

To move to the country and open a cafe? Was I actually just experiencing some sort of psychotic break? Why did I not care that this might be true? After a lifetime of controlling every tiny thing, why did plunging into uncertainty feel so good? And if I wasn’t controlling any of this, who was?

I had so many questions and no hope of any answers. And then I met the shaman.

To be continued…



Hello, I'm Sas Petherick. I'm a self-doubt researcher, coach and podcaster who helps thinking humans transcend self-doubt. If you'd like to receive these posts in your inbox please subscribe here (with bonus info and first notice of opportunities to work with me). PS: I totallyInstagram - join me there?


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