Moment of Awe: October 2015

Lori Laliberte


“The nitrogen in our DNA, the calcium in our teeth, the iron in our blood, the carbon in our apple pies were made in the interiors of collapsing stars. We are made of starstuff.” Carl Sagan taught us that we have a kinship with the stars. The elements that make up our cells originally were cast across space by supernovas. But stars are not alive.

Our cells breathe, produce waste, reproduce and die. As do all the other living cells on our planet. These are our closest kin. The single celled protists, the mollusks in the sea, the plants on the land, the insects which are the most numerous animals on earth. We are living, breathing, animate starstuff.

The rich smell of earth after a rainfall is made by plant and bacterial chemicals in the soil. This ancient petrichor is a scent of life.

All around us, is living starstuff!

Trees green our neighborhoods & parks, and still cover vast portions of our planet.

Below them, moss holds the sparkle of sunlight and dew.

In Oregon a 2,400 year old fungus grows in the soil for 3.4 square miles. With a weight of 605 tons, it is the largest living organism on earth.

On any summer day, 100 million insects are drifting 10,000 feet above you in air currents.

At sunset, hundreds of birds, the descendants of dinosaurs, sing, chirp and call all around us.

In the ocean, microscopic phytoplankton drift with the currents, feeding sea life.

Bioluminescent sea jellies flash rainbow colors in the surf.

The depths echo with the haunting songs of humpback whales.

Everywhere around you there are crickets singing, ladybugs flying, cockroaches scavenging, centipedes hunting, spiders spinning…. our planet is filled with insects, invertebrates and arachnids, the creepy crawlies we love and hate.

We choose to share our homes with mammals, fish, reptiles and amphibians. We actively seek the companionship of starstuff!

All of us are made of the carbon, oxygen, hydrogen, nitrogen and other elements from the stars. But we live and die, recycling our elements into new, living organisms. Earth has had this cycle of life for 3 billion years.

We sing, hunt, love and cry. We are beautiful, angry, talented and strong. We are fragile, fleeting, and unique.

Some of us starstuff will die, but oh, do we live.

[first performed at the special assembly for the Atheist Alliance America conference, theme mortality]
About the Author
Lori Laliberte

Lori Laliberte

After being a stay-at-mom for 19 years, Lori recently divorced and returned to work in refugee resettlement. In Sunday Assembly, Lori started the Book Club, co-organizes the Artist Group, helps with the Living Better Small Group, has coordinated many Help Often events, takes photos of Sunday Assembly events and enjoys providing creative support to readings, ice breakers and special occasions. Lori loves cooking and eating international foods and enjoys hiking with her dog Kenzie.

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