That's the answer; there's no use in contemplating what "not being" is, because if there even was a way to imagine what it's like to not be, it wouldn't serve any purpose. Because we are. We are marvelous enigmatic beings in a marvelous enigmatic universe and on top of that we have the luxury of being able to find whatever meaning there is to find in all of it, or not.
Image by johnhain - source: Pixabay
We, like everything else, are in constant flow, we change from moment to moment and into the next, for we are the sum total of all our experiences, and the experiencing goes on constantly. Just like the material universe in which we strife to stay alive, we are in perpetual motion, always moving away from a certain past toward an uncertain future, never knowing for sure what's behind the next hilltop on our life's path. To be an experiencing conscious creature in a universe that never runs out of new experiences to have, is a miracle in itself, and the grandeur of that miracle is increased exponentially by having other experiencing conscious creatures be part of that universe. Unfortunately we find ourself living in an era, in a self-created world that doesn't allow us to experience that most miraculous of gifts, or not often enough anyway.
This is why I hate light-pollution; it, like so much else in our modern lifes, separates us from the universe we're supposed to be marveling at. Most of the world's populations now live in major cities, most kids grow up there and will never see the night's sky in its full glory; I myself live in a mid-sized town and have to drive miles to see even half of the stars I know are out there. Only when I'm on vacation in my country of birth, Suriname, and only when I visited my grandmother there, way out in the countryside where there's no running water, was I able to see a real night's sky, and it was a miracle to behold. Sure, you can look up a video on YouTube and see an exact replica, but that's not even close to being the same, doesn't infuse you with a sense of being tiny, insignificant in a sense, in the grand scheme of things. Just gazing into that night sky sort of puts things in place, puts yourself in place and makes you realize that you are in touch with even those tiny dots, who's light traveled millions, sometimes billions of years, before finally being caught in the retina of a conscious creature, and thereby changing that consciousness.
Even on the material plane we are in constant flux; cells in our body are being replaced on a continuous basis, and on a sub-atomic level particles are being replaced every fraction of every second. I am literally not the same person I was a second ago, not the exact same flesh and blood. Richard Dawkins once described this startling reality very effectively in a TED talk (linked below) when he said that we are material waves in the fabric of reality. So, the material universe is constantly changing, the material that makes up "me" is also constantly changing, so what does it mean to be "me"? What am I? That's the billion dollar question, because although everything is changing forever, I know who I am. Although I'm also always changing on a mental or spiritual level, me being the sum total of all my experiences, my core stays constant, I'm still "me". So whatever it is I am, it's not the stuff I'm made of because that stuff changes constantly, just like all other stuff. That part of me that's constant and unchanging lives only in my head, so is that the illusion? Or could it be that all that other stuff, all the material particles that set the stage of our experiences, could that be the illusion? Is the "me" inside me, the part that's constant and everlasting for as long as I live, is that the real thing?
I won't pretend to know the definitive answer to that question, I won't even pretend to know if it's even possible for us to know the answer to that question. But what I do know is that the thoughts that spring to my mind literally spring to mind. From the moment I awake until I finally fall asleep, thoughts are constantly racing through my mind, and I wasn't the one choosing the subjects. When in conversation, we speak with full and grammatically correct sentences, but we don't consciously choose those words and sentences; like everything else in our lifes and in the universe, it's just a flow of words that roll off our lips in response to a flow of words that just rolled off someone else's lips. Even most of the sentences in this post are just a stream of words that now come to mind, only pausing now and then because English is not my native tongue and I have to figure out how to say something without sounding like a complete fool, or like Trump ;-) And maybe I do because we're also very good at not seeing our own shortcomings. Anyway, I'll end it here and close with saying that I appreciate you being here a lot, dear reader, and I hope you stay healthy and take the time now and then to just marvel at our shared existence.
Why the universe seems so strange | Richard Dawkins
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