I shall have to disappoint those who expect me to focus on Mother Earth when writing about Mother’s Day. Readers of this blog are aware of my commitment to Earth and my appreciation of our interconnectedness — even inter being — within creation. We know the harm that has resulted on our holy planet when she is unable to nurture life as a mother should. However, Mother Earth is not my focus here.
Nor shall I highlight all physical and spiritual mothers — the ones who gave each of us flesh and blood, who experienced childbirth, who, in the best of circumstances, lived and breathed for our benefit. These women gave us life and nurtured it, and I remember them with deep gratitude. (Mine was fittingly named “Grace”!) We couldn’t be here without them and their nourishment. But they, too, are not my primary topic here.
As we approach Mother’s Day 2016, I choose to write about our celestial star mothers who, by their deaths, gave life to all creation: to galaxies of other stars, to the planets — including our own — and ultimately to every mother, of any species, who has ever existed on what we fondly term Mother Earth.
Writing about what happened in the depths of space and time when the first hydrogen clumps formed the first stars, Curt Stager writes: “When the megastars matured, senesced, and died, … oxygen atoms blew off into space like pollen from bright, flaming flowers. To look into the night sky is to survey distant gardens in which the elements of life are ripening, and your body is a composite harvest from those cosmic fields. … We exist today only because our true celestial star mothers died long ago. ” (Your Atomic Self: The Invisible Elements That Connect You to Everything Else in the Universe)
How awesome, if counterintuitive, to know that we – and everything on Earth — are actually composed of atoms that originated in generations of exploded stars. Everyone and everything “inherited” life from stardust (plus hydrogen and helium, the elements that predated stars). It’s challenging to believe that what looks like my solid body is really composed of atoms that are going “to, through, and from your body,” but it’s true. This can certainly be “downright mind-bending”! (ibid.)
Can it be more than mind-bending? Does accepting our place in our evolutionary story make a difference? Many answers exist to this question, but I shall use one that I remember from a lecture I heard decades ago. That it stuck in my memory is tribute to how deeply it impressed me. I recently saw it referred to in a book by Daniel C. Maguire. Commenting on 1 John: 3:2 (“What we shall be has not yet been disclosed.”) Maguire writes: “Biblical scholar Gerd Theissen … suggests we call off the search for the ‘missing link’ between apes and true humanity. Says Theissen, we are that missing link.” (Italics mine)
Hope for the Future
I find that perspective both insightful and pregnant with hope. Our so-often misguided, selfish, and destructive selves are not the pinnacle of creation. We have much to learn, much to transform, much to become. We each inevitably contribute to the future of creation, and it can be for the better.
Throughout Laudato Si’, Pope Francis intersperses words of hope. A few examples: “… we know that things can change” (par. 13); “Hope would have us recognize that there is always a way out, that we can always redirect our steps, that we can always do something to solve our problems.” (61); “An authentic humanity, calling for a new synthesis, seems to dwell in the midst of our technological culture, almost unnoticed, like a mist seeping gently beneath a closed door.” (112); “Human beings, while capable of the worst, are also capable of rising above themselves, choosing again what is good, and making a new start, despite their mental and social conditioning.” (205)
Perhaps remembering our roots in the stars this Mother’s Day and our place in our cosmos’ ongoing story will strengthen us to continue striving to give birth to an authentic humanity. Happy, hope-filled Mother’s Day!