If I tell you you’re a self-aware, inter-dimensional wave form of densely packed spacetime will it change your life? I’m not saying you’re not you; I’m saying you’re more than you think you are. Or less. Or maybe, both. Just sayin’.
We’re all subject to the physical laws of universe, although there’s more we don’t understand about that than we do. Things get strange at the smallest scale, where matter is revealed as nothing altogether. As the Austrian biologist Ludwig von Bertalanffy noted, “atoms are node-points of a wave dynamic.” This lines up well with what we Buddhists call selflessness. When you get down to it, despite appearances otherwise, we’re next to nuttin’ honey.
And at the largest scale, super-massive black holes appear to be bottomless pits of accumulation, absorbing all and everything around them like tub drains suck in dirty bath water. To make matters even more complicated, it’s possible that matter is simply information and that information itself has mass. Go figure.
The idea of mind over matter opens an entirely new can of worms, pointing to the power of teleology, or what we conventionally call purposefulness. Even single-celled organisms display purposefulness; they seek out food, form memories, and reproduce. For creatures of greater complexity like us, purposefulness has led us to a nominal reality, a fluid existence of names and words. We use the power of language to construct abstract concepts good enough to rely upon in navigating the world. This works remarkably well. On the other hand, such abstractions can deceive us, like mistaking the reflection of the moon for the moon itself.
It appears to have taken 4.5 billion years for life on earth to have achieved self-conscious awareness. Ninety-nine-point nine percent of all the life forms that have existed on earth are now extinct, and what lives today is what remains. Human beings have enjoyed a forgiving world; despite our terrible screw-ups and mistakes, up until this point, we’ve endured. Some believe that a vitalist force is at work throughout the universe instilling life with consciousness, the teleology of a universe with purpose. Such thinking, however, is the product of nominal reality, and therefore suspect.
Humanity holds great power in our hands; we’ve created weapons of mass destruction that can turn the earth into a radioactive graveyard devoid of life in a matter of minutes. New technologies of genetic engineering that circumvent temporality, avoiding the millions of years that natural selection employs, loom dangerously before us. Artificial intelligence may decide humanity is obsolete. We are testing the limits of the forgiveness of the world.
On the other hand, what’s a billion years in the larger scheme of things? If we blow it, if the earth is rendered lifeless for a long while, there’s still plenty of time for life to begin again. It may take a billion or two billion years, but on a cosmic scale that’s insignificant. And that’s just here on earth. There may be trillions upon trillions of planets that can support life, even complex forms of life that are self-conscious and don’t screw up.
The deep story is one of continuity; we’re all some sort of recycled stuff and non-stuff continuously coming together and falling apart, simultaneously actually. Buddhists describe this as “looks like coming, looks like going” or as it’s said, “nothing to see here, folks,” just the reflection of the moon.