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Stardust to Stardust: Reflections on Living and Dying

One of the 21st century's most brilliant sociologists confronts his own mortality.

Erik Olin Wright, one of the most important sociologists of his time, takes us along on his intimate and brave journey toward death, and asks the big questions about human mortality.

Human life is a wild, extraordinary phenomenon: elements are brewed in the cen-ter of stars and exploding supernova, spewed across the universe; they eventually clumped into a minor planet around a modest star; then after some billions of years this "stardust" became complex molecules with self-replicating capacities that we call life. More billions of years pass and these self-replicating molecules join together into more complex forms, evolve into organisms which gain awareness and then consciousness, and finally, eventually, consciousness of their consciousness. Stardust turned into conscious living matter aware of its own existence. And with that comes consciousness of mortality. . . . That I, as a conscious being will cease to exist pales in significance to the fact that I exist at all. I don 't find that this robs my existence of meaning; it 's what makes infusing life with meaning possible.

Reviews
  • "While the upfront knowledge of Wright 's fate creates a melancholic reading experience, the overall effect of his fortitude and humor is one of delight. These touching, wise remembrances demonstrate how joys can arise from even the darkest moments." --Publishers Weekly, Starred Review

    "This final work by one of the very great social critics of our time is not only deeply moving, insightful and important, but an act of immense and urgent generosity." --China MiƩville

    "Breathtaking in its range, riveting in its storyline and gripping in its honesty, Stardust to Stardust exemplifies how to live a deeply meaningful and connected life. Erik Olin Wright, in the last year of his life prematurely cut short by acute myeloid leukemia, wrote this public journal in which he shares his insights about life and love and many matters in between. This is a book that will enrich everyone 's life! Erik 's infectious curiosity, optimistic warmth, and deep-rooted kindness will touch the heart and mind of all who dip into its contents." --Richard J. Davidson, NY Times best-selling author of The Emotional Life of Your Brain, Founder and Director, Center for Healthy Minds, University of Wisconsin-Madison

    "Stardust to Stardust is a text about the love of life, the mind, and above all of the love of humanity. It is also one of the most courageous texts I have ever read about dying. Moving with stunning ease between keen sociological insights about hospitals, to the connection between love and emancipatory social science, to discovering how to be comfortable with vulnerability, this blog, written in a few months between the discovery of Erik Olin Wright 's illness and his death, reflects a life of brilliance, generosity and love, and gifts us with lessons in both dying and living." --Raka Ray, Professor of Sociology and Dean of the Social Sciences at UC-Berkeley (and former student of Erik 's)

    "Erik Olin Wright was an extraordinarily kind mentor to his students, including me. But what stood out as he faced the end of his life was his courage and insight as he turned his analytical mind to himself and his own relationship to dying.The result is a deeply life-affirming take on death." --Elizabeth Wrigley-Field, Assistant Professor of Sociology, University of Minnesota

    "You have probably figured out that your Caringbridge blog has a global audience. What maybe less obvious is that it is a powerful model for your readers -- especially those of us who are your contemporaries and for whom the roll of the medical dice has to always be considered uncertain. You probably take it for granted that your response to your body's ugly surprise has been completely consistent with your pre-AML thinking and work: purposive, organized with care and precision, aimed at maximizing the likelihood of a positive outcome; optimism tempered by clear-eyed acceptance of downside possibilities; indeed, even cheerful with a dose of humor. For the rest of us, your response is not just impressive but heartening...this note...is also to say thank you for-- paradoxically-- making it clear that the space for agency is wider than we might have believed before we started reading your Caringbridge blog." --Peter Evans, Emeritus Professor of Sociology, University of California Berkeley.