For we are the local embodiment of a Cosmos grown to self-awareness. We have begun to contemplate our origins: starstuff pondering the stars; organized assemblages of ten billion billion billion atoms considering the evolution of atoms; tracing the long journey by which, here at least, consciousness arose. Our loyalties are to the species and the planet. We speak for Earth. Our obligation to survive is owed not just to ourselves but also to that Cosmos, ancient and vast, from which we spring.

Cosmos, Carl Sagan

I have many meditative koans that, when drawn into memory, powerfully shift my mental perspective in daily life. All this is impermanent is probably one of the most viscerally striking. I’m sure you have many such perceptions stored away in your brains.

The idea that all life, indeed all of creation, is made from the same building blocks is one such koan. It strikes at the very heart of division in the universe. It encourages a vast, subtle reorganisation of mind and body and attitude. It questions the basic divisiveness of daily life into self and other. Put simply, it nurtures a meditative current that brooks no diversion. We are starstuff pondering the stars.

It seems implausible that a popular science book can lead me into meditation, yet that’s the way it is. Koans come from odd places.



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