“I run my course, and leave the stars to run theirs” — towards a meaning.

The Waterplace
5 min readJul 8, 2023

This post is an attempt to shed light on one of my favourite lines from a literary piece. “I run my course, and leave the stars to run theirs.” The line is from J. P. Clark-Bekederemo’s work, The Masquerade, the sequel to Song of a Goat. But I begin with a glance at Robert Frost’s Choose Something like a Star, which I believe provides additional context for this endeavour — and end with a few lessons we can learn from our siblings, those glowing celestial bodies — stars.

Choose Something like a Star may be about seeking guidance and meaning in a chaotic and seemingly indifferent universe. In the poem, we are presented with the futility of gazing at and expecting useful answers from the stars. The speaker of the poem addresses a star (and all that it symbolizes) and asks it to reveal some of its secrets, but the star remains silent and distant.

Boy on a ladder. By Armand Khoury on Unsplash.
Boy on a ladder. Unsplash.

“But to be wholly taciturn
In your reserve is not allowed.
Say something to us we can learn
By heart and when alone repeat.
Say something! And it says “I burn.”
But say with what degree of heat.
Talk Fahrenheit, talk Centigrade.
Use language we can comprehend.
Tell us what elements you blend.
It gives us strangely little aid,
But does tell something in the end.”

What the poem says in the end, to my mind, is that the star is not there to answer seekers’ questions or comfort doubts, at least not in the way the speaker expected, but to simply shine and be itself — to run its course.

To J. P. Clark’s line, now. The line was expressed by Tufa in response to Titi, his lover, who had charged him for being ‘restless as the stars.’

“You are hot, young man. Really, you are
Restless as the stars that forever
Are flying and rushing, although footless.
Take a look at those tireless beings some
Of whom are now beginning to peer down
At us, and learn something of their coolness.”

Tufa, a man who was born through the adultery of his mother and her brother-in-law (facts unbeknownst to him at the time), responds by saying: “I run my course, and leave the stars to run theirs.”

I find this line very powerful, profound, and existential because, to my mind, it captures the essence of human existence in relation to the cosmos. The stars represent the eternal, the immutable, the sublime. They are not concerned with our affairs or our questions. They are not influenced by our opinions or our beliefs. They are simply there, shining and being themselves — running their courses — and burning out when it’s time.

However, the speaker in J. P. Clark’s play does not resent or envy the stars, nor does he worship or idolize them; unlike the stargazer in Choose Something like a Star. Tufa recognizes the stars as different entities with different natures and different roles in the universe; and he respects and admires them for that. Tufa does not try to imitate or compete with them, nor does he expect them to give him any answers or guidance. The statement is that of respect and admiration, but also an assertion of his own uniqueness and value. He runs his course and leaves the stars to run theirs.

The line is a beautiful expression of humility, acceptance, and self-reliance. It teaches us to be ourselves, to follow our own paths, to focus on our own decisions, and lives.

“I run my course, and leave the stars to run theirs” reminds us that there is a cosmic order and logic that governs the movements of the stars and everything else in the universe. Tufa doesn’t know what’s going to happen; but he does know what’s capable of happening — and none of this will give rise to any protest on his part. It is an acceptance of fate but also a will to make the most of the gift of life; he would live it up.

File: A Massive Star and Its Cradle. By Wikimedia Commons.
Stars. Wikimedia Commons

What can we learn from stars?

What both speakers — the one in Choose Something like a Star and The Masquerade — seem to have ignored is that we are largely stars, too.

97% of the mass of the human body is made of elements that originated in stars. That means we share a common history with the stars, and we are literally made of stardust. We are also each bound to our courses — and we, too, burn out when it’s time (we may say, the speaker in The Masquerade recognizes these latter facts).

Anyway, you’re wrong, if you think that stars are boring because they just twinkle, shine and say nothing. They may not use words, but stars say quite a lot. Here are four lessons you can learn, as Titi in The Masquerade advised, from the stars:

Change is inevitable. The stars seem so fixed that ancient sky-gazers mentally connected the stars into figures (constellations) that we can still make out today. Stars aren’t fixed to the sky. We just can’t see that they move around. So don’t get desperately attached to things that can change, like your job, your car, or even your relationships.

Appreciate the beauty of the present. Stars are beautiful, but they’re also old. Some of them are so old that they died millions of years ago, and we’re only seeing their light now. That means that some of the stars you see tonight might not exist anymore. So don’t take them for granted. Look at them and admire them for what they are: a gift from the past.

Achieving great things requires hard work and perseverance. There is no easy way from the earth to the stars, if your aim is to reach them. It implies that we should aim high and aspire to reach the highest level of excellence; that we are capable of more than we think, and that we have the potential to shine like the stars if we put our best efforts into what we do.

Stars burn. Simple. They may not talk Fahrenheit, or Centigrade. They just do their thing, shining and exploding and creating new elements. They are the ultimate rebels, defying the laws of physics and geometry with their fiery passion. This is the way stars show the way. This also implies that some occurrences may never make logical or mathematical sense to us, and that’s fine. Besides, in all nature, there is no perfectly straight line, no true circle, no standard of measurement except God’s.

Cheers to an enjoyable course.


  • Jeremiah 29: 11; Romans 8:28-30
  • Song of a Goat/The Masquerade by J. P. Clark-Bekederemo.
  • Choose Something like a Star by Robert Frost.



The Waterplace

Sat by the river, writing with ink drawn from her depths.