So, why a “Starlight” Journal? What is it about starlight that is so important? Like everything in this journal, the name is not an accident.Yes, it’s pretty and enchanting, but it’s also more intentional than that. And yet, it is intentional in ways that I’ve only come to realize well after I named the project. Originally, it just sounded right. Even more strangely, I later discovered the meaning behind the name I had already chosen as a result of things having (I thought) nothing at all to do with this project...the universe works in mysterious ways, my friends.
Back to the original question- what is it that is so important about the stars? That turns out to be a more complicated question than it first appears. It’s bigger on the inside.
For one, there’s not a human being alive who can lay outside, stare up at the blanket of glittering stars dotting the void in front of them, and not feel awe in the original sense of the word.
Awe-struck, that is. Inspired, energized, impossibly insignificant and tiny compared to the vastness of the universe, and yet simultaneously meaningful and oh so ALIVE. It’s a transcendent experience; a universally transcendent experience, in fact.
“And when you gaze long into an abyss, the abyss also looks into you.” -Friedrich Nietzsche
This Nietzsche quote comes with a lot of speculation as to its meaning. One possible and popular interpretation is that you become what you focus on, which is true. He’s probably talking about the metaphorical or psychological abyss here, but I think the same holds true when you gaze at the literal abyss- the open expanse of stars in the sky. You become that vast and inspiring universe. Or rather, you realize that you already are. The chemical components that make up life on our planet, including the blood that runs through our veins, is only formed in a dying star. And stars at varying levels of decay are what you see when you look up on a clear night. You’re watching the glittering dance of the universe-- its continual growth and evolution and decay; a thing with which every one of us is inextricably linked. We ARE the universe in ecstatic motion. Every one of us. We are the ecstatic dance of ancient stardust, looking up and focusing on the void and realizing that we are continually becoming, and already are, ancient stardust ourselves.
When you gaze upon the glittering night sky, you at once realize just how small you are compared to the expansive abyss above. At the same time you also realize that you, the tiny individual, are both made of and a part of the whole that is this vast and powerful universe, literally and metaphorically. If you gaze too long at the universe, I think you become one with it-- or maybe more accurately, you realize that you always were one in being. And that is both a powerful and humbling experience. Which, really, I believe everyone should experience as regularly as possible. So the stars are immeasurably important for facilitating this sort of transcendent experience. Gazing at the stars makes us better humans.
And then there is the light. Everything always comes back to the light--the name of my business, the name of this journal, even the name of my chosen medium (“photography” means “light writing”).
It might seem a bit strange at first for the focus of a very dark, nocturnal adventure to be the light. But it’s true. You need the darkest dark in fact, the places with the least light pollution, to see the most light in the sky. Darkness and light are two sides of the same coin: darkness is only scientifically the absence of light, in a physical sense. So, in a way, of course you need to go through the darkest dark to find the metaphorical light within yourself as well. You need the darkness because without it there is no true light. The hero is always born at the height of chaos in the story, because the chaos and darkness is what creates the conditions that require a hero, or light, in the first place. This is why we celebrate Christmas, the birth of the ultimate hero, at the winter solstice. Because the hero is always born at the height of darkness. And this is where the theories on that Nietzsche quote can get really interesting, because right before he says “when you gaze long into an abyss, the abyss also looks into you” is a line about monsters- a warning not to become the monster you seek to destroy.
Metaphorically speaking, Nietzsche’s abyss is most likely our own darkness. And in many ways, we do have to face our own darkness; descend into our own darkness, and ultimately overcome it, in order to truly find and embody our own light.
Light is always the highest good. The light illuminates- both literally and figuratively, and that is good. God said “Let there be light,” and it was good. Because knowledge is what allows us to grow figuratively, and light from the sun creates heat and life and physical growth. Fire and light further are tools that humans have mastered to allow us to advance knowledge and technology in unprecedented ways. You can literally learn more if you have candlelight (or electricity) that allows you to spend more time reading and learning.
Just like physical darkness is the absence of light (and in a way, vis versa), and so one cannot exist without the other, good and evil (the human capacity for darkness and light) must also exist as two sides of the same coin. In order to have the highest good, we must also necessarily have the lowest evil. One cannot exist without the other.
Furthermore, in order to ensure that we are choosing the light, we must first face the darkness. We must acknowledge that the darkness is an equal option. Otherwise it’s not a choice, it’s a default. And we cannot take credit for a default. We must gaze into the abyss of our own darkness, and instead of letting it consume us, instead of becoming the monster we seek to destroy, we must choose to focus on the lights that dot the abyss like stars. Because if we focus on the light, we become the light.
Maybe there is something to the act of gazing at the stars that physically mimics the metaphorical, and so we feel that awe and power resonate in our souls when we stargaze-- for the beauty is almost always terrifying, too. The terror of space and darkness could just as easily consume us if we let it. And yet, laying on blankets and gazing up, surrounded by the darkest night we can find, we do not look in fear at the empty blackness of space. Instead, we look to the light of the stars. And we delight in their light.
For it is always the light of the stars that guides us along. In terms of movement and navigation, the stars have always been the guide, shining like beacons in the night. Their light orients sailors, and guides them along their way. If you are lost, whether in a forest or at sea, or even just within your own soul, the thing to do is always to look to the heavens- look to the familiar and steady lights in the sky, orient yourself, and follow them home.
Since ancient times, we humans have always looked to the steadfast stars glittering above us to light our way in a real and literal sense. But even as we evolve our technology, and the light of our cities drowns the light of the stars, there is still a significant but metaphorical way that we use the stars as guides: we wish on them.
It sounds fanciful- the stuff of fairy tales. But fairy tales are usually true in profound ways. A wish on a star is more than a delivery order to heaven. A wish on a star is in fact the embodiment of finding the highest physical light (which represents the highest metaphorical good, because lightness IS always goodness), orienting ourselves towards that highest good, and following it home. Once you name the highest good you can imagine in your wish, then you have your orienting point, and your guiding light. It is only once you determine where you’re going that you can determine how to get there. So, we wish on stars. We pronounce our destination to the universe, and then we use that wish to guide us to it, just like sailors following the stars home. And that is no more an accident than the name of the Starlight Journal.
Get your copy of the journal here, and let this starlight help to guide you to your highest good.
This month’s shop release is also my favorite line from this article, so if it resonates with you especially, grab that line on a print, mug, tshirt, or other home decor item here. And as a bonus, get the design on the back of the Starlight Journal, which for me so embodies the importance of following the light, in the shop as well.
Thank you, as ever, for your support and interest in this blog, my creative musings, and my creative work. If you’d like to support this blog, consider grabbing a product from the shop like the Ancient Stardust or the I Create Myself pieces featured today, or consider supporting my creative work in general on Patreon. Learn more about that here.