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Ever since I was a little girl, I’ve appreciated the beauty of starlight. My parents even put stickers of shooting stars and the moon on my ceiling to watch as I fell asleep every night. Those twinkling lights in the sky are a constant reminder of the vastness of the universe. But I recently learned something about stars that makes their sparkle a little more personal.
Stars — the most noticeable and fundamental building blocks of galaxies — make up 97% of our bodies. In fact, according to the Natural History Museum in London, “Any element in your body that is heavier than iron has travelled through at least one supernova.”
In an interview with the museum, Dr Ashley King, a planetary scientist and stardust expert, explained, “Every element was made in a star and if you combine those elements in different ways you can make species of gas, minerals, and bigger things like asteroids, and from asteroids you can start making planets and then you start to make water and other ingredients required for life and then, eventually, us.”
Dost thou reckon thyself only a puny form
When within thee the universe is folded?
But Baha’u’llah wasn’t referencing merely the physical universe inside us. He was referring to the spiritual “planes and states [that] are folded up and hidden away within” us. So, could there be spiritual and symbolic meaning to humans being made of stardust?
Author J. E. Esslemont explained in his book, “Baha’u’llah and the New Era,” that Baha’u’llah wrote that the religious prophecies about “the sun, moon and stars, the heavens and the earth, are symbolical and are not to be understood merely in the literal sense. The Prophets were primarily concerned with spiritual, not material, things; with spiritual, not with physical, light.”
When the sun — the most noticeable star at the center of our solar system — is mentioned in religious texts, it often symbolizes the many prophets of God who spiritually enlightened the world.
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“The sun is the supreme source of light, so Moses was a sun for the Hebrews, Christ for the Christians, and Muḥammad for the Muslims,” Esslemont wrote. He explained that the stars sometimes signify “the lesser sources of illumination, the religious leaders and teachers, who should guide and inspire the people.”
One of the first Baha’i prayers I memorized as a child was, “O God, guide me, protect me, make of me a shining lamp and a brilliant star. Thou art the Mighty and the Powerful.”
I believe that I was praying to one day become a source of inspiration for others and to dedicate my talents, knowledge, and strengths to uplifting and serving society.
To that end, I find inspiration in these words of Baha’u’llah:
O people of God! Righteous men of learning who dedicate themselves to the guidance of others and are freed and well guarded from the promptings of a base and covetous nature are, in the sight of Him Who is the Desire of the world, stars of the heaven of true knowledge…They are indeed fountains of soft-flowing water, stars that shine resplendent, fruits of the blessed Tree, exponents of celestial power, and oceans of heavenly wisdom.
But to become stellar, we need to live a virtuous life and detach ourselves from the material world. So, what does doing this look like?
Abdu’l-Baha, the son of Baha’u’llah and one of the central figures of the Baha’i Faith, wrote that the “friends [who] are the stars of the summit of Providence and the planets of the firmament of Guidance” dispel “darkness and destroy the foundation of envy and enmity. They wish for the world and its denizens unity and peace; they destroy the basis of war and strife; they seek integrity, faithfulness and friendliness, and are well-wishes even of the evil-disposed enemy. Thus they make this prison of infidelity the sublime mansion of fidelity, and this dungeon of envy a delectable paradise.”
Becoming a spiritual star is not an easy task, nor should it be taken lightly. It requires us to devote our lives to working for world unity and dispelling hostile divisions, such as racism, sexism, and other prejudices. But, it is certainly a worthy calling to aspire to. After all, we are meant to shine as stars do, as we strive for our inner spiritual lights to become as radiant as the physical beacons in the night sky.