“THE GREATEST OF ALL THE ACCOMPLISHMENTS OF 20TH-CENTURY SCIENCE has been the discovery of human ignorance.” Lewis Thomas, Lives of a Cell. “OUR IGNORANCE, OF COURSE, HAS ALWAYS BEEN WITH US, AND ALWAYS WILL BE. What is new is our awareness of it, our awakening to its fathomless dimensions, and it is this, more than anything else, that marks the coming of age of our species.” Timothy Ferris, Coming of Age in the Milky Way.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Everything Is Everything

Greater than the visible

I’ve orbited the sun 62 times. How many times have you orbited the sun?

But wait… Shouldn’t we be including the 9 months we spent in our mother’s wombs? Why should the beginning of our lives be counted only from the moment we emerge from the birth canal? 

By the above calculation, I’m already 63. But hold on. Am I only 63? 

The genetic material in my father’s sperm and mother’s egg that fused into my DNA was around long before 63 years ago. In fact, the follicle cells that produced the egg that turned into the zygote that became “Mark” were in my mother’s ovaries at her birth! And what about the DNA in her mother’s ovarian follicles? I must trace my bodily self back to the primordial ooze.

Then again, no cell in the body lasts more than about 7 years, so maybe I’m really quite young. (No wonder I’m immature!) On the other hand, every atom that comprises my body was forged in the furnace of various stars many billions of years ago. All of us are literally made of stardust.  So maybe I’m really as ancient as the starry eons.

This is getting fuzzy and complicated. All I’m trying to do is to determine, precisely, how old this body is.

But that leads me to a far greater problem: Is the body’s age (even if I could determine it) the age of my Self? Am I the body? If I am the body, who was that little tyke back in the 1950s who rode a tricycle and answered to the name “Marky”? That little guy was not me—was not the hairy dude who now types these words. 

Am I the body? If I am the body, then I am a short, wiry human primate that appears in this indeterminate locality of space-time. I notice that “All that appears disappears”—all that is composed decomposes. So will I disappear? Will I decompose? Of course I will—IF I AM THE BODY!

Am I the body?

If I am not the body, what am I? If I am not the body, WHERE am I? Am I located inside the body? Am I situated in the head? In the heart? In the left big toe?

The body appears in and of space and time. If I am located inside the body, does that mean that I am trapped also in space and time? Am I locatable? If I am located in space and time, Where is space, and when is time?

The body appears. Do I appear? If I do appear, what do I look like? In a mirror, I see an aging body reflected. Is that MY appearance? Is that how I look? Vision is limited to the viewing instrument; the human brain can perceive only a tiny fraction of the energy spectrum. Can that visible fraction reveal even what the body is, let alone what I am? If I am not the body, than no mirror can tell me how I look. Not only that, but you cannot see all of me, just as I cannot see all of you, for we are infinitely greater than anything visible.

Wisest Man in Athens


Starship PLATO

Let’s say that you and your family and friends are living aboard a spaceship; you were born aboard the ship and have lived there all your lives. The ship is a starship called the Plato. It left home eons ago and traveled to many distant worlds seeking adventures and knowledge, and now it’s returned to its home planet to report everything the people aboard have experienced.
But something has gone terribly wrong. The ship has been traveling for so long that its passengers have forgotten where they came from. They think the ship is the real world—the only world!
The ship is actually orbiting Earth, its home planet from where it began its voyages of discovery. It’s been orbiting Earth for generations because no one aboard remembers how to get off the ship and get down to Earth—to the real home. All the unused shuttles for returning home are stored in a forgotten cargo bay, covered in thick shrouds of dust.
Every once in a while, ambassadors from the planet’s surface visit the ship to check up on the passengers and try to help them. Mostly, they tell the passengers about the real world. But because the visitors are big and healthy—they’ve been living in the sunlight and fresh air—they always seem like giants. The people on the ship don’t realize these visitors are just healthier versions of themselves: fellow Earthlings! Most of the people on the ship think the visitors are angels or gods.

One day, a beautiful woman comes to visit you from Earth (let’s say her name is Sophia). Sophia tells you how to board a shuttle to get down to Earth. Following her guidance you find the passageway that leads to the bay with the shuttle—and you get aboard and it takes you down to the planet.
Oh, the open sky, the sun, the fresh air—it’s unbelievably free and bright! No walls! Your heart breaks from the beauty. And the people on the planet welcome you with open arms, as their own long-lost child.
But… You can’t bear to stay, because you remember all your friends and family still aboard the ship. You’ve got to go back to tell them the good news! You’ve got to get them off that cramped tin can they think is the real world!
So you go back.
Now what do you SAY?
How can you tell them about “OPEN SKY”?

Six Vajra Verses (from the Dzogchen tradition)

The nature of all phenomena is non-dual flow.
What IS never can be determined,
Yet the total universe spontaneously arises without obstructing.
Everything already has been accomplished;
Therefore, relaxing from the strain of seeking and trying, 
find yourself whole and bright.
This is contemplation.

Metaphor of the Garden of Eden

"Eden" (paradise) refers to the paradise of little childhood, the pre-egoic, pre-verbal life, up until about 4 years old. Our parents (if we're lucky) nurture us and provide us with every need. We have not yet acquired "the knowledge of good and evil," for we have not acquired language and intellect and built the self-image. But then when we become verbal (at about two to four years old) and the discursive mind begins to develop, we construct an ego-“I” that is no longer "innocent" for it now knows "good" and "evil", "self” and "other," and it exercises comparison and judgment. At that point, we can no longer remain in the paradise of childhood (of selflessness), for we have developed the discrete self-sense.

May all beings be well and happy!