Ruth Woodliff-Stanley

Science & Nature

Your Body Was Forged in the Spectacular Death of Stars

Enrico Ramirez-Ruiz

TED Talk

A talk by astrophysicist Enrico Ramirez-Ruiz detailing how the atoms that comprise human beings were forged in the nuclear reaction of exploding stars.

Pay attention to the description of the death of the Crab Nebula and the chemical legacy of the filaments made visible to human beings 1000 years after the event through the Hubble telescope.

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Current Events & World Affairs

The Decade in Pictures

The New York Times

Photos capturing key events in last decade from New York Times.

Pay attention to two images in particular: the June 7, 2014 image of immigrants on a boat off the coast of Libya and the July 9, 2016 image of Ieshia Evans in Baton Rouge, Louisiana being arrested by police during a Black Lives Matter protest.

(N.B. This lesson is behind a paywall. NYT allows 5 free views per month; it is my hope that you might use one of your 5 on this lesson if you are not a subscriber).

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What is the Christmas miracle to you?


In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it. John 1:1-5

Since the beginning, death and life have been inextricably bound. Astrophysicist Enrico Ramirez-Ruiz tells us in today's science and nature lesson of the very literal way in which our own lives have their origins in the death of supernovas over the history of the universe. The images that the New York Times editors selected to reflect punctuated moments in the past decade in our current events and world affairs lesson juxtapose the fight and tenderness of the human spirit with the relentless forces of death that continue to plague our existence.

Two images from the Times' visual anthology of the past decade particularly highlight to me what it means to be a person of faith in the complex world which is ours to navigate. First, the image of immigrants off the shore of Libya (June 2014), and second, the image of Ieshia Evans being arrested at a Black Lives Matter rally in Baton Rouge, Louisiana (June 2016). The photo of immigrants on the boat conveys like no other image I have seen the ultimate reality of humanity. Beyond all privilege and oppression, beyond all accidents of birth or nature, beyond health and disease, beyond wealth and poverty, beyond every ism concocted to create and reinfoce inequity and injustice, there is the simple fact of our one humanity. All of us, together, in a lifeboat. Moving through time and space on this planet, born of waste from the death of stars.

All things have come of the divine word–a word that spoke the death and rebirth of stars to make billions of atoms. Atoms, Ramirez-Ruiz teaches us, that we share with those we love, those we admire who live now or who lived hundreds of years ago, those we oppose, those we despise, those we will never know. And so, we who are many are, indeed, one body. We share one breath, one stardust.

The second image, that of Ieshia Evans, has been in my psyche speaking to me since the first moment I laid eyes on it. In the one instant captured in the photo, whether she knew it or not, Evans conveyed the essence of grace and truth. Transcendant, radiant, clear. That's all. Love incarnate. Nothing more, nothing less.

And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father's only son, full of grace and truth. John 1:14

If we are waiting for the absence of suffering and death in this world to herald joy and life worth living, we shall be waiting for a very long time. Word made flesh is itself the gift of this life. Being together in this lifeboat. Here, now. Stardust shared lover to lover, enemy to enemy, stranger to stranger. Love incarnate standing calmly right in the center of humanity's failure.

God has indeed come among us. Bringing a glory that will not go away, ever. And we, you and I, have seen this glory. Full of grace and truth. This is the Christmas miracle to me.