Thursday, February 16, 2006

Stardust

Stardust

My mind is full of words always.  That’s essential for a writer, which I claim to be, and probably one of the defining characteristics of being human.  These days the words “star” and “dust” and “stardust” are haunting me.  It’s some years now since I read the astrophysicist John Gribbin’s marvellous book entitled simply Stardust.  I love especially his enthusiasm and his passion for his subject.  The first few lines of his introduction are worth quoting here: “Life begins with the process of star formation.  We are made of stardust.”  Simply and beautifully put.  Then there are other combinations of these words that float around in my mind:  “What is the stars? What is the stars?”  These are the words of Seán O’Casey’s character Captain Boyle (and repeated by Joxer) from his famous play Juno and the Paycock.  A big question no doubt – on a par with the philosophical one, “what is life about anyway?”

Then these words from a recent report from NASA spring to mind:  "We sang our spacecraft to sleep today with a melody of digital ones and zeros," said Tom Duxbury, Stardust project manager at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif. "Stardust has performed flawlessly these last seven years and 2.88 billion miles and deserves a rest for a while, like the rest of the team."  As you will have gathered, Stardust is, in fact, the name of a now famous spacecraft that successfully returned to earth samples of a comet via its sample return capsule on January 15, 2006.  This spacecraft has logged almost seven years of continual flight and has gathered much data.  By being placed in hibernation it may be re-activated at some future date if needs be.  See the following link if you wish to read more about this: http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/stardust/news/stardust-20060130.html

And yes there are many more combinations of the above three words chasing their tails around my mind these last few days.  Other resonances are the words from the Nat King Cole song “Stardust”, a few lines of which run: “Now my consolation is in the stardust of a song/ Beside a garden wall/ When stars are bright.”

And finally as it is so close to Valentine’s day, I cannot help remembering the horrific fire at the Stardust Nightclub in Artane, Dublin, on Valentine’s Night in 1981 when 48 poor souls lost their lives to the holocaust of a tragic fire.  This infamous night is forever engrained on my memory as my two brothers and I who lived barely five minutes’ walk away went down to lend a hand as the poor wretches attempted to escape from the inferno.  At approximately 1.15 a.m. we heard and series of explosions which we interpreted as either bottles or cans or paint tins exploding.  We looked out the window of my bedroom to see the night sky illumined by flames over the ill-fated Stardust night club.

I offer this brief “blog” of words and associations in memory of the 48 young souls who died so tragically in that horrific inferno on February 14th/ 15th 1981.  May your precious memories be forever engraved on the memories of all who loved you.  May your dust of flesh and bones become the stardust of tomorrow.  May you be remembered fondly by all safety-minded people.  May your families be consoled even now after all those years of mourning.  May the light of stars shine in our hearts as we remember you all fondly.  You have not died in vain.

To read about recent news and updates on this tragic fire see: http://www.rte.ie/news/2006/0107/stardust.html I could not think of what to put in by way of illustration, so I chose just a simple piece of clip art which shows simply two open or compassionate hands - i ndilchuimhne orthusan a fuair bás go h-anabai agus go tubaisteach. Leaba i measc na naomh go raibh agaibh!

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