Consider this: Most of what exists has no future and no past. Most of the universe moves timelessly along. For time to come into existence or be known you need a human brain (or whatever equivalent organ extraterrestrials may have if they exist). Through us humans the universe becomes aware of itself. On the time scale of the universe our appearance has been a fraction of a second. If no one else in the universe has ever been as conscious as we are, it would be safe to say that the universe has major awareness deficit disorder. Maybe the universe constantly becomes aware of itself and we just don’t know it. Be this as it may …
We crave to see a future and our brains are doing a good job at constructing one for us. Human brains are pretty powerful anticipation ‘machines’ and they use statistical probability and other ingenuous neurological means to have us believe that the future they construct is real. I ‘know’ that in a few hours I will be meeting my son for dinner. Do I know that my ‘knowledge’ is just a thought, a pure virtual construction of my neurocircuitry? Do I know that only my current experience of typing this blog in the surroundings I am presently in, and only the neurofirings experienced as a thought about my future dinner with my son are real? Do I know that in this present moment for me neither son nor dinner exist as fully embodied lived reality, and that neither may ever again exist in my life? If you look very closely, can you see that in front of your presently lived experience of life there is only a wide impenetrable spaciousness of unknowable events? Contemplating this deeply feels like our lives are like a drive in a car with an opaque windshield we cannot see through to the future, and a beveled rear view mirror that gives us a modified and distorted view of the past. Contemplating this deeply feels like death as we relinquish the feeling of reality attached to the virtual constructions of a future by the brain. No future and no past exist except in the form of thoughts. To realize that means that a whole world of hopes, ambitions and expectations collapses and vanishes into thin air to leave nothing but the ever vanishing present. We die – now. Apparently though, when we die before we die, we won’t die when we die.
When we consider the legacy we want to leave behind, this sobering reality takes a stubborn hold in our hearts. All our lives we strive for excellence and to be the best we can be. We strive to fulfill our responsibilities to society and to no small measure ensure our place in the memory of humanity. We hope to be remembered when we pass on. We cherish the admiration from well-wishers during goodbye parties arranged for us when we move on from a role we held for many years, and for a moment we may feel eternal and unforgettable. But when some time later we revisit the places we were so involved in, we discover that most people don’t know who we are; some remember, but we have no place anymore in the web of their lives. Upon our leaving we are immediately replaced by people who take over the reins and take their turn to try to fulfill the dream of immortality. Cemeteries are full of indispensable people.
Memories of our contributions are like the grains of sand and pebbles on the beach – we enjoy their collective accumulation as a beach, not the individual grain of sand. Our contributions to the human condition vary in importance and notoriety. Some gigantic contributions never see the limelight of notoriety, while mediocrity can shine brightly for a while. Very few are sufficiently cherished and remembered to have permanent memorials created in their honor. Even then, their memory mostly lives on as fleeting acknowledgements of times past, buried under the rubble of day-to-day preoccupations with clear and present survival. There is nothing left of the narcissistic gratification that fueled our ambitions. There is nothing left of our dream of immortality. There is nothing left of our self-importance when we crash like a wave on the shores of reality. Even the memory of our existence fades into fleeting thoughts or oblivion in our offspring. There is nothing left – except for the realization that nothing important is left undone when we offer our living presence to the ones we hold most dear, to all the people whose life we touch during a lifetime.
Copyright 2014 by Dr. Stphane Treyvaud. All rights reserved.