One Life…

Excerpt from this video:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wU0PYcCsL6o

“So then, let’s suppose that you were able every night to dream any dream you wanted to dream. And that you could, for example, have the power within one night to dream 75 years of time, or any length of time you wanted to have. And you would naturally as you began on this adventure of dreams, you would fulfill all your wishes, you would have every kind of pleasure you could perceive. And after several nights of 75 years of total pleasure each you would say, “Well that was pretty great, but now let’s have a surprise! Lets have a dream which isn’t under control! Where something is going to happen to me that I don’t know what it’s gonna be”. And you would dig that and come out of that and say, “Wow that was a close shave wasn’t it!”.

Then you would get more and more adventurous and you would make further and further-out gambles as to what you would dream. And finally you would dream where you are now. You would dream the dream of living the life that you are actually living today; that would be within the infinite multiplicity of choices you would have, of playing that you weren’t god. Because the whole nature of the god head, according to this idea, is to play that he’s not. So in this idea then, everybody is fundamentally the ultimate reality. Not god in a politically kingly sense but god in the sense of being the self; the deep down basic whatever there is. And you’re all that! Only you’re pretending you’re not.”

I find this concept compelling – not the part of us being the ultimate reality (because I don’t agree) – but for the core concept of boredom. Changing Alan Watts’s version for one, not of dreams, but of immortality or reincarnation (not that different), you would have to agree that, given a vast amount of years to live (or lives), you would eventually get bored. The ‘risks’ you would take would be greater and greater, to the point where you would embark upon a ‘life’ from which you could not wake up – one where the end is definitive. That is the ultimate thrill. Death is obsessively fascinating!

Many people find the idea that we have but this one life absolutely terrifying. This is why there are so many invented stories of an afterlife or reincarnation or something more. Even buddhists and zen masters can’t find peace in this and have had to invent stories of Sacred Wheels and Nirvana and enlightenment (or are these inventions only for those who aren’t ready for the truth yet?).

Given the above, I don’t understand why so many people need something more. The above thought-experiment makes it seem to me perfectly reasonable to have but one life and be grateful that we do. I personally am relieved that I have but one. Sure, I’m also terrified! But I don’t need anything more. I feel sadness for all my past mistakes, immense sadness that I’ve caused so much pain to loved-ones through my own mistakes – but it’s not because I think “After I die I will be no more” that I don’t care. I am acutely aware that my own life has had millions upon millions of repercussions to the world around me – the one that will survive me – and it is my participation in the advancement of Life on this planet that makes me so remorseful of my mistakes.

But because I have but one life, I will not waste it commiserating that fact. I will enjoy it, experience it, live it. This harkens back to the pithy aphorism (not sure if it is Buddhist): “The journey is the destination.”

So much purpose can be derived from this truth – not least of them is that, given the intrinsic and unique value of the journey, it is my responisibility to make everyone else’s journey as free from suffering as possible – or at the very least I must not be the cause of their journey’s end (i.e. murder = BAD!). Another purpose that can be derived from this truth is to assure the harmonious perennity of Humanity as a whole – to maintain balance and harmony so that Humanity’s journey persists (Humanity’s duration far out-lasting an individual life). From there I realize it is my responsibility to keep our planet clean and hospitable to human life – or encourage our governments to pull together and start our great migration towards other planets. Humanity must continue and spread, in harmony with all other life.

I am born with a gift of compassion and love and it is my responsibility to use that gift within the tiny duration of my own life to assist the lives of others, and keep us all moving forward. Pretty simple reasoning isn’t it? That is why I think that consciously choosing to believe that there is no afterlife (whether or not it ultimately is true) is important and the mature thing to do. It’s bloody difficult, but you know what they say about worthwhile things being difficult…

The Incredible Persistence of Life

persistence_of_nature_cropped

I saw a long tangle (several meters) of creeper vines outside that have grown along the ground and begun to spread over a large expanse of sheet metal. And it got me thinking: left alone for twenty or thirty years, and this sheet of metal will be completely hidden by vegetation. First the tangled vines will trap and accumulate dead leaves (preventing them from being washed elsewhere in the rains), dust and all sorts of organic material. This will form a kind of ‘mud’ or soil within which future seeds can grow – from dandelion seeds to seeds dropped in bird poop or whatever. These seeds will grow and their roots will spread across the sheet of metal, thickening and holding the soil ‘mat’ together even more. The metal underneath will keep this living biomass separate from the rest of the Earth so that we could hypothetically lift it off years later.

Life is the truly impressive, perpetually changing, form of ex-sistence as I’ve been looking at it. Persistence – genuine persistence, not apparent persistence – it seems to me, is made possible by perpetual ‘difference’ or change, so that Life is somehow more persistent (“per ex-sistence”) than the rest. Of course, it could be argued quite rightly that the metal sheet is just as persistent as the biomass, but it does seem somehow of a ‘lower order’ don’t you think? Like repetitive change being less impressive that non-repeating change. The atoms vibrate back and forth within the crystalline structure of the metal – a repetitive process and quite boring. But the organic matter has vibrating atoms, surely, but also moving atoms, bouncing atoms, and an exchange of atoms, incessantly!

Being persistent does not make it unstoppable. If it stops here, on planet Earth, I am fairly certain that there will be Life elsewhere, and perpetually (or at the very least until the end of the Universe). But that being said, our Life is precious to us because it is the only life we will encounter within our lifetime – hopefully we’ll explore other planets, but I certainly won’t live to see it – and so we have a responsibility to encourage its growth, nurture its variety and maintain its balanced environment.

What do you think? Does living matter somehow have more je-ne-sais-quoi than non-living matter?

Time-lapse and human-centric scales

In a breathtaking video on the various forms of coral in the Great Barrier Reef, Daniel Stoupin breaks us out of our human-scaled sense of Time and shows us what he aptly calls “Slow Life.” Before going any further, please take a look – not only is it edifying but it is beautiful:

http://vimeo.com/88829079

Another incredible documentary is The Private Life of Plants – the BBC documentary narrated by the inimitable Sir David Attenborough, which shows, through time-lapse footage the incredibly ‘intelligent’ movements of plants as they grow and feel about.

Our sense of scale is so limited by our own experience that trees seem immobile, but slow down time, and you’ll see these ‘creatures’ move around, adapt and change to their surroundings. We’re so stuck inside our own heads that there are things we rarely get a chance to consider…

Anyway, ponder, consider, and appreciate the wonder of life on every scale…