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A Hint of Mysterious Aurora

I’ve replaced my mindless cat pic scrolling with a feed of planets and stars and black holes. I am enamoured with the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST). It’s the biggest, most powerful telescope ever built, and it began transmitting mind blowing images from outer space to earth in July 2022. It orbits in a gravitational sweet spot some 1.5 million kilometres from earth. One of its early captures was of a galaxy that dates to 300 million years after the big bang. These numbers might be too large to comprehend but suffice it to say, this is one powerful telescope!

I wish we could normalize the ability to do just a hint of something good and beautiful.

Recently, the JWST found what’s being describe as a “hint of mysterious aurora” over a ‘failed star’.  You know auroras? The northern lights are an example. The thing is, these stunning displays of colour and light are the result of charged particles from a star (read sun) interacting with molecules in the sky. But the ‘failed star’ found by the telescope has no star!

This is where, religious folks would have, once upon a time, attributed the mystery to the work of an intervening God. There’s even a name for that: God of the gaps, (God explains the gaps in our scientific knowledge). But I’m more intrigued by the hypothesis of the scientists on this. They wonder if there is something at work within the so-called failed star, which is providing energy to its atmosphere, making the aurora possible. Is it possible that the power from within the failed star is radiating in such a way as to create this stunning effect?


Failed stars is an unfortunate and in fact misleading name. You could think of them as stars that never reached their full potential. But I think they’re differently abled stars, underestimated stars, stars that are doing the best with what they got.


You want to know why I love this hypothesis of the scientists? Because failed stars producing beauty makes me feel super hopeful about the possibilities for the likes of me. If a failed star can do this then what about the power from within flawed humans?

Sign me up to be a failed star any day. There was a time I was going to single handily bring about world peace but these days the ability to create a hint of a mysterious aurora feels like quite enough to strive for. Besides, I need all the encouragement I can muster at this point in January. I intentionally don’t set resolutions, in an effort, to not face inevitable failure. I got my gym membership at the last societal new year, you know – in September – back to school time. Let’s just say, the people at the desk where I swipe my card in front of those mysterious blinking lights don’t yet know me by name. I’m okay with that, I’m trying, really.


You know what I wish? I wish we could normalize the ability to do just a hint of something good and beautiful. I can see the headlines: “Middle-aged woman, on the verge of becoming an empty nester, finally has time to make her bed every morning.” How about this one: “Stressed-out parent chose, for the first time in a long time, to not curse at the stupid driver who cut them off.”  My star may have failed from a culmination of bad luck and dumb choices but I’m radiating beauty.

Like the failed star we offer our best, despite all odds being against its potential to last. 

I think we all have a hint of a mysterious aurora to offer the world, even for a few minutes at a time. I wonder if we forget to notice the small stuff; if we hold back from offering enough because we know we’ll never amount to anything approaching the Northern Lights.

Back in 2017 I read about a guy in New York, he called himself Ulysses. He was working a service industry job wondering why he even had a master’s degree. He took up running along the Hudson River as a practice to clear his mind. As he ran, he noticed jagged stones along the shore. One day he began to lift the stones, to pile them atop each other. It became a sort of homemade healing practice; moving those stones into piles, for hours on end, day in and day out, until they became human like figures, living art of piled stones. People toppled his stone art over, as they do. Ulysses was undeterred, he just created more. He said to a New York Times reporter: “When I started out, it was a small, shy exhibition. But it’s grown larger with each destruction. This has been a very perseverant work.”


Contributing our bit of beauty to the world, our wee, whisper of aurora, is perseverant work. It’s a choice we recommit to each morning. When we do it, when we preserve with beauty, our offerings become a blatant defiance of the forces of apathy and aggression. Like the failed star we offer our best, despite all odds being against its potential to last.  Stones piled upon stones along the shores of a city that daily has a choice to make between fear and faith, hate and hope. Stones throwing caution to the wind as if they are saying: “I’m a rebellion against the darkness, call me foolish tear me down, I will rise again.”  Stones or stars, not sure which metaphor resonates more for you, but I know this: you have some serious beauty to bring to this world.


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2 commentaires

Bob Peacock
Bob Peacock
17 janv.

Gosh Beth, you really do need to write a complete book. I love the analogies between the failed star and the stones. How true, to be an aurora now and then is perserverant work, but we try. But, I love the idea of the building stones and creating something beautiful (even for a moment) and then if it falls or someone tears it down, we can build it bigger, better and maybe lasting. Thank you for being both a star that shines and will never fail and a stone that builds and creates beauty even when you do not know it. Miss you very much. Bob and Lloyd.😍

Beth Hayward
Beth Hayward
17 janv.
En réponse à

Bob and Lloyd, so glad my words resonated for you. I miss all my Vancouver people and I sure could use some of Bob's dancing at my new church. hugs

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