Living Stones

One galaxy "ate" another galaxy



Recently I read this news clip: “The Andromeda galaxy ate our sister galaxy, and now it’s coming for us.” An astrophysicist used poetic license to describe that star-studded dinner event but it got me thinking. Maybe I need to expand my narrow definition of living things.

My biology textbook made it clear that living things display certain characteristics: an organized structure made up of cells that require energy to survive and sustain its existence, that expresses the ability to grow, metabolize, respond to stimuli, adapt to its environment, move, respire, and reproduce in some way or other.

Who hasn’t noticed that a mere candle flame can satisfy most of our definition? It’s not an organism, but it can grow, respond, adapt, move, respire, and reproduce into a raging forest fire if given the opportunity. The planet Earth is composed of seemingly inanimate rocks that form a living biosphere that lives and breathes and reproduces itself through volcanic eruptions. With enough heat, rocks become molten lava that can shape-shift.

Galaxies don’t have the organs, blood, and network of intricate plumbing that our human bodies have. But I can see those awesome whirling spirals are composed of bodies with solids, liquids, and gases that flow. No doubt they grow, metabolize, respond to stimuli, adapt, move, and respire. When an old star implodes in a supernova, its dust germinates new baby blue stars that also grow, adapt, shape-shift, and have a pulse like newborn babes.

Even the atheist Carl Sagan speculated that the whole universe is expanding and contracting like a beating heart. Maybe he secretly entertained — but just could never admit to — the embarrassing thought that the universe is a living thing. Mystical speculations like that could land a self-respecting scientist in hot water.

It looks like I’ll have to expand my view of living things to include all the heavenly bodies, as well as the inanimate stuff composing the Earth and the Moon.

So, if I dare scoff at some little toddler’s imaginative idea of a “pet rock,” cradled in a custom cardboard box complete with straw and breathing holes, then slap me silly. For I need to believe like a little child in living stones that could have sung of Christ’s glory.

“For I tell you, if these [disciples] were silent, the very stones would cry out” (Luke 19:40).


Richard M. DellOrfano spent ten years on a cross-country pilgrimage following Christ’s instruction to minister without possessions. He is completing his autobiography: Path Perilous, My Search for God and the Miraculous.

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