In a great hall at the fringe of space, the elders of existence are having a celebration. As they feast on their desired foods and enjoy each other’s company, they are giddy with themselves, the focus of this celebration. At this fated juncture, every single thing is marveling at the brilliance of its being and basking in the warmth of each other’s iridescent energy.
Well after the guests make it into the hall and begin mingling with one another, a new being appears. Still familiarizing itself with the fragility of its surroundings while coping with its feverish radioactivity, the thing hesitantly moves into the perplexing space. This “thing” is a protostar, a young star that merely consists of dense clouds. It struggles to adapt to the fluidity of space as well as its own fate of extraordinary growth and emission of incomprehensible levels of heat. In its current form, the protostar navigates its way through the hall, floating seamlessly as its prismatic clouds graze against each unique surface. Its introduction to countless unique beings starts to overwhelm the protostar; the hall’s combination of new colours, smells, textures, and life forms that would otherwise be light-years away from each other look like a scene from a creation myth. It moves to meet some of these mysterious beings, starting with a smaller, orangish creature covered in dark, uneven lines. The creature seems to be resting: its body is sprawled across the floor with its limbs curling into it, and its fat, moist nose creates swirls of mist onto the surface underneath it. The protostar deems it a peaceful being, ignoring the many, even smaller, furry creatures that scramble to avoid this one.
“Hello,” says the protostar, eager to know the being.
It looks blankly at the cloud and huffs through its thick nose.
“What are you called?”
“I go by many names, none of which I care to list right now. You may call me Tiger,” it answers, voice weighed with both exhaustion and nonchalance. “What are you?”
“I’m not so sure,” replies the protostar.
This piques the interest of the fat, patterned creature.
“How do you not know what you are?” Tiger questions as it positions itself to sit comfortably. “Do you at least know what you do? Do you have a purpose?”
“A purpose?” echoes the protostar.
Tiger yawns. “Yeah. You know, a reason for being the way you are.”
The protostar doesn’t reply; its colourful self floats quietly, filling the space, but not the silence, around them. Finally, it asks, “What is your reason?”
Tiger’s big, marble-like eyes shine at its chance to boast.
“For me, and many like me, my reason for living is to help the environment around me. I kill, eat, and then die.”
Worry coats the star’s voice. “And how, exactly, does that help?”
“Well, you see, this cycle of death and eating lets my world continue to exist. If I cause death as I eat and die in return, then everything is equal, and life may persist. Of course, it isn’t just me. Other things contribute to our cycle of life, but I guess you can say that the main idea is to kill or be killed.”
Made uncomfortable by this discovery, the protostar cautiously floats away from the big, furry creature.
Still fueled by its curiosity, the protostar takes the time to converse with different beings about their own identities. It meets with creatures of all shapes and sizes: from entire planets, to mountains, to the near-invisible functions of the human brain. The introduction to different attitudes, physicalities, and emotions by these unique beings comforts the protostar. As each creature it meets excitedly reveals its purpose, the protostar marvels at how everything in existence can tie together so subtly. It comes across beings that are meant to sustain life, to be worshipped, to destroy, and even to bring light and energy. It hears stories of more mature celestial beings like itself: stars with different names and different purposes that range from guiding travellers to devouring entire planets. The protostar, though comforted by the idea of its likeness to other stars, is still wondering about the reason for this likeness, and even more so, the reason for every entity’s need to celebrate itself at this feast. Was the protostar’s ever-changing, seemingly eternal cycle of expanding and collapsing in on itself worth such a celebration?
As the protostar is enveloped by the joyful interaction around it, it wonders a little too much about the complexity of this cosmic scene, causing it to space out as it floats to a nearby table with a few guests. The conversation of these guests is eventually able to capture the attention of the protostar. One of them—an oddly shaped being with four limbs that stretch into multiple smaller digits at each end and a fat, ever-moving head at the top of its body—is going on about the amazing things that its kind had done. The other guests look at the being with bored, annoyed, and generally unamused faces as they wait for the conversation to change. The protostar takes this opportunity to ask it the same question it has asked many others. As it asks its purpose, the other guests either groan in annoyance or leave their seats, and the gears in the odd being’s head turn vigorously as it prepares to answer.
Finally, it says, “I mean, no one ever told me. I’ve heard that us humans are the most complex beings ever known, so maybe we’re just supposed to figure that out for ourselves.”
“Well, what have you figured out for yourself?” asks the protostar.
The thing takes a minute to gather its thoughts, clearly never having thought much about this answer. After a deep breath, it says: “I think that I might be meant to want more. Perhaps it is because I am young, but I think my purpose is to chase the things that I want until there’s nothing left to chase. What have you figured out?”
The star didn’t expect to be asked to examine itself a second time, so it ponders for a while before answering.
“I’m not sure. I’ve talked to many creatures here, and they all gave me different answers. I’m glad that I have an idea of what I might be as I grow older, but I don’t know what that’s all about.” The protostar pauses as its puffy clouds blanket the ends of the being’s smooth legs. “I fear I may never know my purpose,” it voices.
The protostar detects the being’s pity as its dark eyes and thin lips tighten in unison.
“I think you will. We’re all here for a reason,” the being assures. “Different as we may be, we all have a reason for celebrating our existence. I don’t think it will be too hard to find yours.”
For a moment, in the room where time and space have no authority, a human stares at a young star with a feeling of love and kinship burning in its heart. As it often goes, the protostar isn’t as aware of its role in this relationship as the human is due to its distance and inability to see the human as the human sees the star. Still, thousands of years of adoration and knowledge are felt in these few, precious seconds of intergalactic connection.
Suddenly, the hall quivers as a colossal figure slowly stands to give a toast, the movement eerily mimicking a tsunami’s wave. The amalgamation of fixed and moving, of microscopic and gargantuan, and of life and death comes to a standstill as the great figure captivates everything. He is something fantastic; his eyes are glossy and pale, yet full of life. In his stare is an intensity reminiscent of the deep blue of the ocean, and his beard seems to be a literal ocean—its strands drift to and fro like waves. As if by a spell, the great figure’s epic demeanor somehow instills a sense of safety and comfort within these babes of existence, as if nothing could harm them in his presence. Most of the party could fit into the palm of the giant’s rugged, blue and brown hand, which fiddles with the Saturn-sized pendant on his neck as he opens his mouth to speak.
“Welcome, everything, to The Grand Feast,” the giant being says warmly. “I would like to express my love and adoration for all of you in this space. Each of you has done something so spectacular and so important for all of existence, and for that, you should cherish all that you are.”
The warmth in the giant’s voice swims in the hearts of all the guests, and each one silently grows to admire the others even more as he continues. The protostar, captivated by the booming sound of the speaker’s voice, floats idly while taking in his endearments to existence.
“They say that when we die, we turn into stars, or white butterflies or gods or whatever else. I, as old as I may be, have no idea if any of that is true. For all I know, I might have been as great as Jupiter or as puny as a mouse in my past life. One thing I know for certain though, is that I’ll never really die, not even in memory. And neither will any of you. You all have taken up space and left a sizable imprint in the wake of nothingness. You all have claimed the will to be, and for that, you shall always have a place in existence.”
The protostar, finally understanding its cosmic role, exhales its newfound knowledge.
Though quiet, the protostar isn’t quiet enough, for the grand speaker whips his head in the direction of the voice. Immediately, he calms his expression. His worldly orbs are slowly blanketed by the thick skin around them as happily ancient wrinkles form. Every spark of love ever felt crackles in the dark spaces of his missing teeth, and the remaining ones stand like mountains as he smiles, beautiful and grand.
“To be,” he echoes.
The grand speaker turns to the endless crowd and finishes his speech to everything. “To being! To the beauty, happiness, tragedy, and fear of being. May we never disappear. May we never truly die.”
We would like to begin by acknowledging the Indigenous Peoples of all the lands that we are on today. While we meet today on a virtual platform, we would like to take a moment to acknowledge the importance of the lands, on which we each call home. We do this to reaffirm our commitment and responsibility in improving relationships between nations and to improve our own understanding of local Indigenous peoples and their cultures.
York University’s land acknowledgement may not represent the territory that you are currently on, and we would ask that if this is the case, you take responsibility to acknowledge the traditional territory that you are on and its current treaty holders.
York University acknowledges its presence on the traditional territory of many Indigenous Nations. The area known as Tkaronto has been care taken by the Anishinabek Nation, the Haudenosaunee Confederacy, the Huron-Wendat. It is now home to many First Nation, Inuit and Métis communities.
We acknowledge the current treaty holders, the Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation. This territory is subject of the Dish With One Spoon Wampum Belt Covenant, an agreement to peaceably share and care for the Great Lakes region.
From coast to coast to coast, we acknowledge the ancestral and unceded territory of all the Inuit, Métis, and First Nations people that call this land home. Please join us in a moment of reflection to acknowledge the effect of residential schools and colonialism on Indigenous families and communities and to consider how it is our collective responsibility to recognize colonial and arrivant histories and present-day implications in order to honour, protect, and sustain this land.
In recognizing that these spaces occupy colonized First Nations territories and out of respect for the rights of the Indigenous people, please look for, in your own way, to engage in a spirit of reconciliation and collaboration.