Starlight, star bright
Updated: Nov 2
I didn’t know much about Zion National Park before I went there for the first time five years ago. The ground was dry and gravely and the skies were a piercing blue. The red rock of the canyon was beautiful.
My favorite part was the stars.
I had’t done much camping before then. This was my first trip outdoors in a tent with a thin film of plastic between me and nature. And, I wasn’t prepared for the breadth and beauty of the stars. There were so many.
It takes time for light to travel across the universe. As an example, the nearest star to the earth is four light years away – which means that it takes four years for its light to reach us. The star that we call the “North Star” is actually named Polaris, and it is 680 light years away. That means it takes 680 years for that light to travel to earth.
It turns out that when we look at the sky, we are really looking at the past shining back at us. We are looking at the history of a million different stars and the light they let loose anywhere between a few years ago to centuries ago.
And it made me wonder… are our lives any different than the stars?
We’ve got this funny way of judging our lives on earth within the minutes and seconds and days and months that pass. We think that what we do yesterday should make a difference today. And, for some, that could be the case. Most of the time, it is not.
There are seeds we plant today that will not bloom for decades or centuries.
We are all sources of light. We are all stars with a beginning and an end. And the light we emit touches the lives of those around us currently – and can impact generations.
Everything worth growing starts off small. Even the stars.
Stars are an accumulation of gas and dust that gain momentum and collapse due to gravity. It can take up to a million years, but all that light we see in our sky is because of gas and dust and their turbulent dance.
The interesting thing about stars is that the bigger they are – the shorter their life span. Massive stars use up their hydrogen fuel so quickly that they begin to die more quickly.
It’s actually the tiniest stars known as “red dwarfs” that really last the test of time. They burn their nuclear fuel so slowly that they may live to be 100 billion years old.
Are our lives so different?
It’s not the brightest lights that stand the test of time – the one hit wonders, viral video stars, Instagram Influencers and celebrities.
It’s the tiny ones.
If we were to turn off all the distractions and bright lights in our lives and look at the world around us like the dark black sky in Zion on a clear summer night, what would we see?
I think we’d be surprised by the light we carry with us.
There is a basket full of stars that I carry with me. People who have touched my life who have come and gone. But, their light still remains. The impact they made stays with me. I carry it with me and share that light with others.
And, somehow, inexplicably, my life is also a star. It is the nature of life to emit some degree of light.
It is very difficult to see the impact of our lives today, yet alone over the course of generations. But, there is an impact. And the strength of that light is not measured by size.
The most important lights we carry with us are the steady and constant streams of light from the tiniest stars, including the people we interact with on a daily basis: our families, our friends, our coworkers.
That means we have a decision to make every day with this little light of ours.
Will we let it shine?