Thursday, 31 July 2008


Stars are fascinating objects. Generally we think of them as part and participants of giant constellations. People of knowledge have navigated the way by studying the pattern of stars for centuries. A single star, no matter how bright, is never sufficient for this purpose; rather it is the relationship between stars from which we seek to learn. Stars have led the way so reliably, in fact, that some have come to exaggerate in matters relating to them. Thus we hear of attempts to divine the future based on star patterns. Stars consume themselves in lighting up the night sky. We perceive stars mostly by the light we receive from them. Amongst themselves, however, stars communicate in more subtle but surprisingly more compelling tones. They operate under the influence of each other's gravity. Superficially gravity may not dazzle the observer but it never fails to exert a pull. And if we were to investigate only a little more closely we find that it is, in fact, gravity itself which transforms an otherwise ordinary rock into a dynamic life-giving beacon in the sky. Stars are not born overnight. The drama and publicity that coincide with the discovery of a star can potentially blind us to the long and tireless struggle leading up to this episode. To become luminous the star must exert a sufficient gravitational pull by first acquiring critical mass. Gaining mass in space that is devoid of matter, like gaining righteousness in a world whose concerns are devoid of things that really matter, is a painstakingly slow process. it demands the discipline of steadfastly pursuing a straight path in the face of compelling and competing forces.

Must stars form over millions of years? If by stars we mean self-luminous heavenly bodies then indeed there are no shortcuts. In this sense 'shooting stars', meteors, are not 'stars' at all; quite the opposite. They are in fact no more than star dust, mere pebbles, and small boulders wandering astray through the voids of interstellar space. Unlike real stars, they fuel not their own fires but rather like parasites they shine only by consuming the host atmosphere that they have managed to penetrate. These meteorites, if they survive their plunge through their host's atmosphere, inevitably sink to the ground while stars, they soar for the skies. The entire existence of stars is marked by patient perseverance while the meteor's claim to fame is a single moment of unrestrained exuberance. Eventually both meteors and stars give off light. Yet how different are their characters! Is one who dedicates his life to following a path and attains glory in the process equal to one whose sole purpose in life is to seek self-gratification by whatever means possible? if we value justice then we must judge not only the end but also the means that are employed.

It is the discipline of the stars which we need to emulate in pursuing our goals; brightness and glory is but a consequence of this effort for those who are fortunate. Stardom might be distant but even in the process of associating with stars we become elevated planets, our paths guided by a star's gravity, gathering their light and wisdom and reflecting a fraction of it. Stars shine not only to guide, they shine also to grow. For surely if there were nobody present to witness them they would not cease to shine. Stars are easily obscured. It is true that all stars eventually burn out. More often, much more often, however, it is the moods of our own atmosphere that hinder our vision. A vagrant cloud of suspicion, dust and smoke kicked up by our activities, the ambient stray light from our worldly distractions, any one or a combination of them could be the culprit responsible for making stars appear to twinkle moodily or to disappear entirely. Fortunately, rediscovering stars is rather straightforward. Sometimes it requires only that we wait for the winds of change to sweep the clouds away. We might wait longer still for the rains to cleanse our atmosphere, a spiritual catharsis, until we can see again. When we are acutely distracted, however, it might require that we move out and away from the bright and noisy city to the calm and quiet reprieve of small towns and solitude. Here, we will find once again that the stars continue to shine vying for our attention. And if through our efforts we confirm only the demise of a star, then it was but a star amongst many. For to follow the stars is not only to burn selflessly in the dark of the night. But it is also to guard selfishly one's dignity and independence in pursuing a course through the cosmos of life in the company of others, the dazzling and the humble. While stars appear to us as belonging to constellations, it is well to remember that in fact they are light years apart from their nearest neighbors, each star in its own very personal circumstance.

So if your stars too have disappeared make certain that you were not mistaking a passing meteor for a real star. Then invest some time on analysing yourself; often a small shift in your position will result in their reappearance. However if they fail you still, it is no permanent loss and your efforts are not in vain. Just look up at the night sky to confirm how your struggle has birthed a dozen new stars that you never known existed.



Syra said...

Indeed stars are fascinating objects. It is for the wise ones to derive benefit from the many of Allah's creation. SubhanAllah.

I like the message of character building the article imparts through out the text (Y).

I was reminded of this video song from the film Swades. I particularly like the part just before the song where the kids and villagers are visualizing patters and shapes in the sky by joining stars together.

Farhan Hafeez said...

Beautiful ...

I always thought that stars are big, now i know they are deep too :) ...

bilal said...

the cosmos have always fascinated me!

Indeed, good/wise individuals are like stars, making the world a better place.

Saira Andleeb said...

"Then invest some time on analysing yourself; often a small shift in your position will result in their reappearance." True !

another scientifically beautiful piece of writing (Y) :).