Your Life In A Day
With the passage of time, all such actions or lack of them, appear less significant. And anyway, since the cells in our body die and are renewed, replaced by different ones, we do in a literal sense become difference individuals. The connection I have to the boy I once was is now so fragile that it requires an act of conscious 'faith' to maintain that we are in any significant sense the same person.
- Sebastian Faulks, Engleby, Vintage Press (Random House), 2008
Today ain't like it used to be. But then, you aren't either.
As Faulks suggested in the quote, our physical self changes every day. In fact, there is no part of your body that still has the same cells as it had 15 years ago. Over that period you have been completely rebuilt.
In a world obsessed with the shape and appearance of the human body, that might seem disappointing. Especially as strings of genes in our DNA don't always and forever reproduce themselves exactly. Over time, they tend to lose code at their tail ends. Even our replacement parts don't reproduce exactly.
So what is the real you? Your body changes over time, completely replacing itself repeatedly over your lifetime. Your brain's memory contains all the same stuff it did 15 years ago, but it has added 15 years worth of learning and experiences to itself. If you attempted to count the new information your brain has added over the past 15 years it would be so staggering you wouldn't be able to count it if you took the rest of your life. Your brain has changed markedly over the past 15 years.
Your personality has changed. Sure you retain many of the same habits, relationships, values and so on, but if you could meet the you of 15 years ago today you might not recognize yourself. You don't even look the same in the mirror.
What identifies you as you? How do you know you are the same person?
Let's add a little perspective. Do you remember a movie or television program you watched over the past week or month? Was it real? Was there a real program you saw or maybe it was just a memory? In fact, you can't prove you even saw it. Memory proves nothing, as the recall of witnesses in recent court cases has shown. Some memory has been altered over time, some is purely invented.
For that matter, you can't prove you existed yesterday, or that there even was a yesterday. As shocking as it may seem, maybe today and the world you know about today came into existence when you gained consciousness this morning. If you believe that someone can create a movie in which you participate as viewer and in which you find yourself thinking that it's really happening at the time, then why could it not be possible that a whole past, an entire history, was created when you woke up today?
I know, it's not the way you have been taught to think. It's not what you have been lulled and trained into believing.
You have family members, loved ones, neighbours, work friends who aren't with you now as you read this. You can't prove they even exist, at this moment as you sit reading this. You trust that you can move from where you are to some other place and you will find them where you expect. You may be right. But you can't prove it. When you move to one of these places, you change your own reality. You change from the present NOW to another NOW. Once there, what you are doing in this NOW will be equally as unprovable. It might be just a created memory, like your memory of that movie or TV program. What we know as memory and history could be entirely self-created memory.
The only reality you can depend on is this one, the one you are in. If you hope to be remembered by someone in a future NOW, then you had better act in ways that will cause you to be remembered. If what you do in this NOW only benefits you, then others will have no reason to remember you later. Why should they? They will be busy with their own NOW of the moment.
That may give you some insight into what you do with your time, the time you think of as NOW, as your own. Do you want to be remembered or not? Memories of people who think only or mostly of themselves don't last long. People remember (or create memories of their NOW moments) others who helped them, who cared for them, who showed them that they mattered.
If you believe that your body, your own personal NOWs, are all that are important, you have no reason to believe in a God. God serves no purpose if all your NOWs will eventually vanish and be forgotten. If there will never be anything left of the YOU you know when you die, then there is no need for God, no afterlife. Not even any purpose to what you are doing in this NOW. If nothing of you will continue to exist after you die, then life has no purpose. Does that make sense, that everything around you has no purpose?
Look around you. Does it seem as if all this could have happened by accident? The moon is as old as earth, as are the other planets in our solar system, yet they have nothing remotely similar to the reality of NOW you live in. Why? Cosmologists and science fiction writers claim there are likely many other civilizations out there somewhere in our universe, but they have absolutely no evidence to support their claims or speculations. No one has any evidence that the NOW you live in is anything but unique.
Does everything change constantly or does it all remain the same? Or do--gasp!--some things change constantly while others remain the same? Sorry, that last statement doesn't make sense to a thinking person. It's inconsistent, unlike anything in evidence around you. Everything you know changes, though some things change slower than you can detect so it seems as if they remain the same. Rocks change just as surely as the universe itself changes. We have evidence. At least we have memories of evidence we believe we read.
Your body changes when you die. Many of the bacteria that cohabit your body with "you" today--there are more of them than of cells in your body--may live on in other environments when the life that was your body has dissipated. Your body cells may separate into various atoms and molecules, but they won't disappear. Even if someone were to burn your body, the matter would change into energy, as Einstein proved. Remember e = mc2
Does that mean that when you die you are gone, or not? Are you comprised of your body and nothing else? Every atom that was your body remains and becomes something else. Does the part of you that you think of as "me" disappear? In nature, nothing disappears. It's the natural Law of Conservation. Why would the "you" that you spent so many years creating disappear? That's assuming you believe there is something more to you than animated cells.
If the "you" you created disappeared at your death, that would defy nature's laws. It would defy everything you have come to believe is real. Stuff doesn't disappear, it just changes.
You created something. You created you. Maybe you didn't create everything you know as real, but you created something. Does that make you a Creator? Does that make you God? Well, sort of. For that to be strictly true then there would have to be 6.7 billion other Gods on the planet. That doesn't make sense.
What makes more sense is that you, as creator, are part of a larger Creator, a system. You can't hold the whole system together. But you can be a component of it. You can't be God. But you can be part of God. God can be part of you. This isn't a religious lesson, it's an exercise in logic.
Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ of Christianity and the figure believed even by Muslims as the Son of God (Jesus and his mother are both mentioned in the Qu'ran), taught that. Read the Gospel of John. Read it straight, not filtering what you read through what you have been taught. If you grew up in a Christian family, your beliefs were more those of Paul, not so much of what Jesus taught. Paul, a Greek, taught what he believed and attributed it to Jesus and God. That's what inventors of religions do, they never give themselves credit or their followers wouldn't believe them. Read the actual words of Jesus, not their context because the Church of Rome doctored up the context of the few words of Jesus that were recorded.
Jesus taught that God is within each of us, not up in the sky somewhere. He said that we could find God within ourselves. We just have to look.
Having read this far, you have had a peek at possibilities relating to existence, your own and that of the world you know. Look further. Never mind the crap you have been taught by others. (Sorry, that was rude. I detest being asked to "have faith" in something for which there is no evidence when real evidence of something different is all around us.) If you want to know what life is about, study your surroundings and think it through.
God, the purpose of life and the continuance of you after the death of your body are not subjects about which you need to "have faith." The evidence is all around you. Nature gave you some of it. Your brain can now give you more.
What is real may not necessarily be what is around you. NOW is like that movie you saw and remember. Reality is much more significant, more grand, much superior to what you see in advertising or hear in your place of worship. Or to what you see as you look around the room you are in.http://billallin.com
Look for it. Start now.
One final point. While you are creating you, create something worthwhile, something worth enduring. Keep in mind, if you want to be remembered, don't be too generous at helping yourself because selfish people aren't remembered fondly.
Bill Allin is the author of Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems, a guidebook for teachers and parents who want to grow children who can think for themselves as adults, who will pay attention to what is real instead of advertising disguised with smoke and mirrors.
Learn more at http://billallin.com