Supernovae! Second generation stars! The elements of our earth’s core, of our bones! We are recycled stardust, born of the destructive and violent / creative and novel event that made possible the formation of our sun, our solar system. The stuff which eventually made life possible, your life and mine – copper, calcium, silver, silicon, sulphur, hydrogen, phosphorus, carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, and more – was created by this enormous cosmic explosion. That’s the scientists’ version.
It is Pentecost, fire and spirit, the fiery gift of the spirit of Life. A number of years ago, I attended a science / religion conference where scientist Connie Barlow led us around a huge lawn in a spiraling dance dedicated to Tiamat, Brian Swimme and Thomas Berry’s metaphor and name for the supernova that gave birth to our solar system. (This dance at the conference is described in Barlow’s book Green Space, Green Time.) Tiamat, from Sumerian myth, was slain and dismembered by her son, creating the separation, the either/or-ness of our way of perceiving the world: heaven/earth, matter/spirit, etc. Violent and horrifying stuff. But in the hands of Swimme and Berry, Tiamat became a metaphor for a “most extravagant gesture of generosity.” Glory, power, creativity, brilliance – and destruction, loss, violence – we cannot have the first without the second in this cosmic birth-event.
In the Temple of the Cosmos, I’ve been working on my visual and fanciful interpretation of that event, though I don’t usually think of the Tiamat myth as I work. I am inspired by the simple miracle of it, the “generosity,” of the cosmic story. And as I look at my own life, I realize how often events which were destructive and resulted in loss also often came with benefits – new directions, relationship, possibilities.
Below are some of the images I’m working on for this panel of the Temple.