The Brightest Stars

By Muhammad A. Tirmazi

Spoken at “Open Mic – Remembering the Peshawar Attack” on February 4, 2015 at the Lahore University of Management Sciences. Refers to the terrorist attack on a school in Peshawar in December, 2014.

The night sky is replete with billions upon billions of stars. Some are large, some are small. Some are bright, some are dim. It is a curious law of nature that the brightest stars in the night sky, the ones with the most hydrogen, die the youngest. When these stars die, they don’t slowly expand into a red giant and then evaporate away like their dimmer counter-parts. Instead, the brightest stars die in one huge burst called a supernova, flooding the Cosmos with light. The light from a supernova is so mind-blowingly radiant that it can outshine an entire galaxy. It keeps travelling through the cosmos for billions of years till perhaps, one day, defying stupefying odds; it enters theeye of an intelligent being.

What happened in Peshawar was a huge and heart-wrenching tragedy. We humans (or at least some of us) have this beautiful quality called empathy. We have the ability to feel the pain and suffering of fellow beings. Loss of human life is always painful to us. I am sure every rational person would, if given the choice, prefer life over death.Being alive is amazing. When a soldier dies, or when adult civilians die, it hurts. However, nothing hurts more than the untimely death of innocent children. When adults die we destroy the present, but when children die, we destroy the future.

The grief becomes even more intolerable when one contemplates the amount of potential lost. The poor innocent children who died in Peshawar could have grown up to become greater scientists than Einstein, and greater poets than Keats. Those children, like many others, were the hope for humanity and our country. They were the brightest stars in a dark dark night sky. This was perhaps why, in the grand scheme of things, it was their fate to die young.

There is one way, however, to rise above and overcome this tragedy. We must remind ourselves that, just like the stars in the sky, the stars on Earth too formed supernovae with enough light to outshine galaxies. And their light too, will remain with us long after they are gone.


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