The Enervating Journey of a Dying Star, in collaboration with Mustafa Abdel-latif.

Everything has a resource. Ask the suited man desperately twisting his key in the ignition in the middle of nowhere. Ask the ninety year-old heart that just couldn’t muster another beat. Ask the burnt out lighthouse overlooking the shipwreck at the bottom of the sea. And on the topic of guiding lights dimming to the point of no return; to the point of destroying those who followed them, ask the vicious black hole deep in the sky above you that rips and ransacks reality itself. Ask what only moments ago was a star blazing at its brilliant brightest. See, everything has a resource, and it’s time to take you through a miniature science lesson.

High school probably taught you about enthalpy and entropy. With any luck, they’ll have taught you how large a scale it is, how the idea of energy consumption applies to the whole damned universe. How even that tapestry of stars has a lifespan and how nothing doesn’t, really. Because when everything has a resource, everything eventually runs dry. And when a star runs out of whatever nuclear fuels at its disposal, it starts eating away at its very core. Sound familiar? We’ll get to that. In fact, it’s at this very instant when a star is at its most luminescent; it’s as more and more mass is packed onto its heart that a star is as radiant as it ever has been before. The great irony here is how this poor old star seems most alive in its final moments of being alive at all. Then come the supernova and the flares and the chaos preceding what could only be described as galactic cataclysm. Cheerful, I know.

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Painting by: Tala Muhammed

The result of everything I just rambled about is what my answer would be if you were to ask me what darkness in the purest, most untainted sense of the word was; both literally and death-and-despair figuratively. See, light itself turns into a bleak afterthought in the presence of what effectively is a star’s rather violent corpse. Indeed, what else would we be left with but a merciless black hole wreaking havoc on the unfortunate patch of galaxy around it, capable of tearing at the fabric of time itself? What else would we be left with but the lonely old lighthouse watching solemnly as ship after ship is ravaged at its shores?

From the beginning of time and until now, stars have been known to guide us home through the darkest of nights. Without them, we’re lost, terrified, blinded by the Cimmerian reality of this universe. And while we’re still mesmerized by the constellations, still looking for them each time the sun escapes, their significance is no longer that essential. In fact, their priority has slipped a few ranks under technologies—flash lights, street lights, etc—that make your view clearer. Nonetheless, the concept of depending on a brighter body is still there, still within us, still desperately trying to fight the one darkness we cannot runaway from: ours.

 

From the beginning of time and until now, we’ve personified stars into lifesavers (and usually never asked whether they want that position or not) that look a little like our friends, our parents, our teachers. In moments of straying and in times when we’re incapable of finding the roads we should take—let alone choose from them—we depend on them to shine their light on our misguidance. But we often forget the aftermath of being a star in someone’s sky, we often forget the moment its darkness swallows us whole, that the birth of a blackhole is the death of a star burning too much for the rest of us.

We all start off as stars, even if there’s black matter scattered in our thoughts, we all start off shining—fiery, energetic, hopeful and colourful—until we’re too exhausted to do anything but shimmer. But like all stars, we keep burning like pyromaniacs pouring ourselves into gasoline campfires to keep both our incessant crave for a flame satisfied and everyone around us warm.

See, the problem with burning is that you can’t take back what it took away, nor can you create anything out of what’s left of it; smoke and ash are the points of no return, the ruins of a world too destroyed to be built again. Kind of like giving too much and receiving nothing in return, kind of like pouring yourself into people who let you spill all over the floor and act oblivious about it.

See, the problem with being around people who drain the light out of you, who depend on you too much and yell whenever you’re too tired to show them the way, is that by the time you cut them off, there won’t be anything left of you to fill what they’ve wasted. You’ll die the same way a celestial, burning entity in our galaxy dies; collapsing in on yourself and becoming a blackhole, or losing your cry for help and dying out in silence.

 

There’s always a resource; the universe is mine. So, do yourself a favour: whenever you look at a star, remind yourself to not burn for people who are too cold to keep you warm. Remind yourself to stop, slow down a little, when it feels like you’re running out of energy to keep going.

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