Your atoms came from those stars

If you’re feeling down and insignificant, take a moment to listen to this short and uplifting speech by the American astrophysicist and author Neil deGrasse Tyson. Neil’s speech is a genuine and unrehearsed answer to a profound question he was asked by a reader of Times Magazine: “What is the most astounding fact that you can share with us about the universe?”

According to John Zimmer at Manner of Speaking.org:

“Neil’s answer was thoughtful, moving and […] profound. When combined with spectacular visuals and music, the result is a beautiful three-minute video.”

After listening to Neil’s speech this morning, I felt good, I felt energized and I felt connected to the world. Even more, I felt larger than life and connected to the universe. What a great feeling! During my busy day, I normally don’t stop and think of the ways in which I feel connected to the universe or how the universe is in me.  I am too busy with my “down-to-earth” tasks.

After listening to Neil’s compelling speech, I realize how uplifting it is to be reminded of the profound connections that we, as humans, have to all life forms – both near and distant; both large and microscopic. My favourite part of the speech is:

“So that when I look up at the night sky and I know that yes, we are part of this universe, we are in this universe, but perhaps more important than both of those facts is that the universe is in us. When I reflect on that fact, I look up—many people feel small because they’re small and the universe is big—but I feel big, because my atoms came from those stars. There’s a level of connectivity.”

And here is the text of his answer:

The most astounding fact is the knowledge that the atoms that comprise life on Earth, the atoms that make up the human body, are traceable to the crucibles that cooked light elements into heavy elements in their core under extreme temperatures and pressures.

These stars, the high mass ones among them, went unstable in their later years. They collapsed and then exploded, scattering their enriched guts across the galaxy. Guts made of carbon, nitrogen, oxygen and all the fundamental ingredients of life itself.

These ingredients become part of gas clouds that condense, collapse, form the next generation of solar systems, stars with orbiting planets. And those planets now have the ingredients for life itself.

So that when I look up at the night sky and I know that yes, we are part of this universe, we are in this universe, but perhaps more important than both of those facts is that the universe is in us. When I reflect on that fact, I look up—many people feel small because they’re small and the universe is big—but I feel big, because my atoms came from those stars. There’s a level of connectivity.

That’s really what you want in life, you want to feel connected, you want to feel relevant, you want to feel like you’re a participant in the goings-on of activities and events around you. That’s precisely what we are, just by being alive.

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Julie Zimmer

Julie has extensive experience in nursing practice and education in a wide range of fields from intensive/coronary care, to medical-surgical to community and public health. Julie has Bachelor Degrees in Psychology and Nursing, and a Master’s Degree in Community Health Nursing Education. She has taught in faculties of nursing and in various communities in Toronto, Canada and in Geneva, Switzerland, and is a consultant to the International Council of Nurses (ICN). Julie also has years of experience teaching English as a foreign language (EFL) in addition to coordinating an English department in a Swiss private school.

6 thoughts on “Your atoms came from those stars

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