We Are All Stardust

Kimberly Woodbury - New Haven, Connecticut
As heard on The Bob Edwards Show, March 11, 2011
Kimberly Woodbury

In the deepest reaches of the cosmos, scientists have found sound waves they think came from the Big Bang. Episcopal priest and science teacher Kimberly Woodbury believes those waves are a siren call connecting all of us to the mysteries of the universe.

Age Group: 30 - 50

I remember an article about a group of astrophysicists who sent a probe deep into space. They sent it to a place so far away that you would expect only bottomless silence. And instead they found waves — sound waves that they traced all the way back to the Big Bang.

I believe that those sound waves carry the borning cry of the cosmos. That a whisper from God’s lips created all that is and all that was and all that will be, and that that whisper set it into motion in a cataclysm so great that 14-billion years later those sound waves still echoes through a world without end.

My father used to tell me that I was stardust. It wasn’t until I was grown that I learned that he stole the line from Joni Mitchell. But it’s still true. Every molecule, every atom, every subatomic particle that ever was came into being with that whispered word of God. And they are all still here, circulating through the universe and binding us to each other through all of time and space.

I believe that I will, during my lifetime, inhale seven of the very same molecules of air that were exhaled by the incarnate Christ. I believe this because I did the math. I really did.

It’s where the energy came from, too –- from God’s great cataclysm. All of the energy born at the dawn of creation still dances through the universe. Energy, traveling on different wavelengths, changing from gamma rays to x rays, to heat and to light. We say that God is light, and imagine celestial illumination — a ray of light, a ray of hope, the eye-light of a newborn savior, carrying God’s love directly into human hearts. I do believe that this is so.

But I also believe that God is a like a single photon, a particle of light so mysterious that it makes me think of the Heisenberg uncertainty principle: We can never know exactly both its position and its composition. If we try to hold onto a photon, to slow it down enough so that we can really see it, we find that we have, in our grasping, lost the very thing we sought to hold. I think I do this to God when I try to make Her small enough to understand.

I believe that those sound waves are a siren call of invitation. Invitation to remember that we are all stardust and that we are all connected, each to each. Invitation to let go and to follow a dancing wave to the edge of mystery, where the God who is among us waits in bottomless silence.

Kimberly Woodbury wrote this essay for a colloquium at Berkeley Divinity School at Yale University, while working towards her master’s degree. She enjoys exploring the space between science and faith. After her graduation this spring, Woodbury will work as an Episcopal priest and chemistry teacher in St. Thomas, Virgin Islands.