Friday, April 24, 2009

Monday, April 20, 2009

Grasping Eternity

Currently, I'm reading "The Universe in a Single Atom" by the venerable Dalai Lama, and while I think a lot of it is over my head (my knowledge of science these days pales in comparison to my political mindset), I'm enjoying it mostly. While discussing the impossibility of the concept that the Universe (specifically the Big Bang) was initiated by any sort of "god," my mind quickly slipped away to thoughts of the dense word "eternity" and how paradoxically final and infinite it is. No matter WHAT the final ending is, none of us can escape and we're all stuck in this loop forever or until it ends and everything ceases to exist for all time. Either possibility to me is somewhat terrifying.

Growing up Catholic, I am most familiar with the idea of Eternity as "heaven." Yanno, blissful white clouds, lots of sun, people hanging out in togas with an occasional wingspan, and some incredibly massive dude (maybe with a beard!) hanging out in his jolly way. That seems all well and good, but what the FUCK is there to do in that state for THE ENTIRE REST OF EXISTENCE? I mean, it sounds pretty great and I know it's what many people look forward to, but don't you think that just hanging out for literally billions and trillions of years on some cloud with some douche in the room next to you playing a trumpet would get fairly boring? All the daily challenges we face that make life interesting would be gone. We'd know every answer to every question ever asked and all we would have left to do pretty much is exist. Forever. And ever. At least now, we know we're going to die at some point, so that keeps us on our toes for a bit. I think if I ever got to heaven, I'd be scrambling for the reset button after six months or so.

My current beliefs are more grounded in science and logic, which thusly gravitate me more towards the concept of reincarnation because it simply makes more sense. It is a basic truth that nothing can be created or destroyed because the Universe is the consummate recycler, and I think this applies to the soul. It certainly holds true for the body, or at least it should. Getting buried in an air-tight coffin like most people do these days defeats the entire PURPOSE of your body: to be recycled into worm food or a meal for some grass or a tree. I'm planning on being buried in a wooden box with no chemicals added to me or it because I see far more worth in becoming a part of the planet in a new way than turning into a pile of super gross mush inside some plastic box. Anyway, I've side-tracked myself, as usual.

So, to me, there are two possibilities to reincarnation. The first is that we are stuck in an endless machine that's constantly sucking souls in and spitting them out to be used elsewhere in the Universe, basically like a vacuum with one end tied to another vacuum.. or something. I'm sure there's a better mechanical analogy for this, but that's the best I can think of at the moment. This process would have no end, and we apparently have no control over it. This terrifies me, as well. Think about how long time-wise your life has been. Some may say that theirs has gone by so quickly, and I'd agree, but twenty five years is a long fucking time! Imagine twenty five thousand!! I really couldn't see repeating this kind of stuff over and over and OVER forever. With no true "end game" in sight, what the hell is the point of all of this, really? It's incredibly frightening to think that this will just go on indefinitely, no matter how far I may come in each lifetime.

The other possibility, to which I subscribe, is that reincarnation isn't endless. Everyone is sent to each specific life and situation by their own choice, and is here to accomplish a certain few lessons. Once you die, you have the choice to stay in the next plane or come back to learn more, and once you've learned everything you'd like to, you become a part of what most would consider "god." This option, I feel, is the least frightening because at least things change and there's opportunity to switch things up a bit. It also leaves things open-ended nicely so that it's not just an eternity of one thing. Still, though, it's an eternity of the same process, no matter how many little segments there are, and at one point, it either stops or will have to start all over again. So, basically, we're back to the previous point with this idea of reincarnation: it never stops. Even if all souls become a part of "god" at some point, they will eventually have to break off again, out of sheer boredom if anything. To the Kabbalists and in a few other texts I've read, the reason why we exist and are momentarily "separate" from god is so that god can know himself through us. We are all "god" really, just in separate pieces experiencing separate but similar things simultaneously.

Even if you are a complete and total atheist, the idea that post-kicking-the-bucket, you just cease to be completely has to be ridiculously unsettling. You'll just be blacked out and will never ever feel, experience, or do anything again. Ever. FOR ETERNITY, MAN!

So sit back and think about all of this for second: either you will exist forever, or will be nothing for the entire rest of time. I don't know why this all of a sudden struck me as odd today, maybe because I just can't process large numbers in reference to time. I know that Jesus existed two thousand years ago, but I choose not to think about how fucking long ago that was simply because it makes my head hurt. Let your mind space out for a bit and just contemplate the idea of forever and how ridiculously huge that idea is. I definitely feel something that dwarves me in a weird way and makes me feel helpless in an odd way, like I'm stuck in some sort of prank I can't escape no matter how hard I try.

Of course, all of these points are essentially moot because I really don't know what happens next. None of us do. Heaven could be a giant never-ending party with iridescent streamers and a great DJ that has the magical powers to never get old or boring. Or my points on reincarnation are totally true and we are pretty much just gods hanging out in material forms for a little bit due to the Large God's senses of boredom and curioisty. I'm sure this massive plan will make complete sense once I'm dead, so I'm actually looking forward to dying so I can say, "oohhh!! NOW I get it!" instead of going, "well I think I understand and it all seems fun regardless!"

Now let's go back to the idea of the Big Bang for a second...

If you are Christian and believe that the Big Bang is true, then heaven becomes an impossibility. Every single atom in the entire Universe was contained in a super-condensed, hottest-thing-ever little dot. Now, this was just matter, so essentially the stuff of the physical realm, like our bodies. Because our "souls" are immaterial, they could not have existed within this little dot and must've surrounded it within whatever space surrounded it, and thus we must've been one giant piece of each other. Maybe that's really how heaven is, but many people believe each person has their own individual space in heaven, and I just don't think that's logical. Then again, how many religious belief-systems are based in logic?

Now, if you are Buddhist, the Big Bang throws the concept of karma into question, as well. If all matter emanates from one point, then we are all essentially in debt karmically to the first action (whatever it was) and are merely spending the rest of eternity trying to repay it until everything collapses upon itself randomly.

It boggles my mind to think about what surrounded the Big Bang's dot because obviously there's something on the outside of what we consider "The Universe." It literally goes on PAST forever. Scientists have no idea as to what lies outside of our Universe and our Dot, so I'm not about to try theorizing until I better inform myself. Although, I have the feeling that the outside of our Universe is the residue of the previously destroyed Universe and the space in which our Universe existed will at some point give space to the next incarnation, much like our bodies house our souls and our souls move from body to body. Anything that's broken or destroyed is capable of being completely reassembled in one way or another.

Within one of my recent blogs, I briefly touched upon the potential infinity of space. I think the idea of Eternity and infinity in terms of time is even harder to grasp. Anyway, I could go on forever, and this is one of those topics that help to point out how truly insignificant and yet crucial I am. If I continue, I'm likely to lapse into a meditation-induced coma, so I'll just go back to thinking about my truly trivial life. I think things like wonderful friends, guys that make my heart skip a beat, the goal of grad school, and Indian food exist so that I don't lose myself in these expansive thoughts. HA! Wouldn't it be hilarious if the entire point of existence was to distract us from existing so that we didn't lose ourselves in the contemplation of it all? Oh my, that would be deliciously ironic and almost Simpsons-esque. Truly my kind of Universe!

Sunday, April 5, 2009


There are few things of more importance to a kid than their imagination. All the swords, dolls, and blocks in the world would be pointless if a child didn't possess the ability to make them come to life. Granted, it seems to be used less these days with modern technology, but kids still rely on it for a lot. I can remember pretending I was a crime fighting ninja turtle with sais for gods' sake or a certain hero with a sword who, looking back, was pretty gay if you ask me. The point, though, is that as a kid, I embodied those characters and I became them for a little while each day. My imagination allowed me to suspend my life for the moment and become something else entirely and it didn't really require much effort or anything special. Everyone as a kid is able to do this and we even imagine whole worlds together occasionally. Some kids even have imaginary friends. Their imagination is so strong that they can invent complete personalities outside of their own. It's really kinda fascinating if you stop and think about it.

The frivolous and constant use of imagination stops once we hit puberty. It's point switches from imagining oneself as a king or horseback riding through the countryside to imagining what the person next to you looks like naked. Being a gay guy, though, I'm not sure which use sounds like a better time! The fun and innocence, though, is obviously drained from our imagination upon turning into sexual creatures and never gets replaced, sadly. At that point, we begin to view our imagination as childish and something to outgrow even though our creativity brought us so much joy. We feel pressured by our friends and parents to "grow up" and leave behind something we held so dear for so long. This generally appears to be the point where many people begin to feel negatively towards life, too, so it seems once the imagination is gone, so is the innocence of childhood.

With Easter fast approaching, my mind is often drawn back to my youth in the Catholic Church. Around every major Catholic holiday, there was a definite mystique that surrounded the traditions, and it wasn't just the fictional characters like the Easter Bunny and Santa Claus. With each Holy Day, there was a palpable magic in the air. This man and this god that seemed larger than life itself re-experienced their story every year and it was incredible, inspiring, and far-fetched. Now that I'm older and no longer believe in the faith, the feeling I get during any holiday is completely different, to which I'm sure many people can relate. Lately, I've noticed that I've slipped into a comfortable numbness related to the holidays now that their magic is drained completely. I'm content with their adult forms, but I dearly miss the magic they used to have. My imagination used to be wrapped around these legends, and it is this that creates a lot of problems for adults. Our imaginations that were once so powerful and innocent come to defend the lore and myths of religion. We accept only these made up stories as truth and deny all else, even the religions of others, and the once pure tool of imagination becomes something extremely dangerous. How probable is it that a man was crucified and rose from the dead three days later? Or that a man parted the Red Sea? Or that the world is held up by a pile of turtles? All of these ideas are believed by people, even though to a different culture from the one in which they were formed, they all sound like the fruits of an overactive imagination.

Before the advent of modern science, adults used their imaginations to explain the wonders of natural phenomena. It takes an extremely creative person to explain away the stars, the sun, the moon, and the weather with such eloquent and inspiring stories. To the Greeks, the Sun was merely the Chariot of Apollo riding across the sky each day, which made complete sense to them at the time. Such a belief was obviously concocted in someone's imagination. We, of course, understand the the sun is actually a massive ball of gas and heat that emanates enough light to give this planet life and we believe the Greek story to be nothing more than that: a silly, childish story. A flower was once a person and thunder was the wrath of the gods. To us, it sounds naive and we often learn these stories as kids to help pepper our own potent imaginations, but are these stories that far from a man raising the dead and walking on water?

Technology and rationality have come to replace imagination in our modern age. Fitting for this time of the year, I watched a documentary today that scientifically and logically explained each plague that Moses brought down against the Egyptians. Most were interconnected and it all required the exact perfect storm, but each one was explainable. We can track storms, predict eclipses, cure an innumerable amount of diseases, talk to another person who lives thousands of miles away and this is all done with technology and rationale. But, let's face it: is that as fun as imagining that fairies exist or that spirits roam the forest? With all of our modern comforts and toys, many of us yearn for a more magical time when the simplest things inspired wonder and awe.

As adults, we generally use our imagination for the most boring and unproductive shit. As kids, our imagination added to our day and brought most of us happiness, while most adults use theirs to worry, me included. We stress creatively and imagine all of the things that could possibly go wrong in every situation, all the time. Most grown ups rarely use their imagination for anything productive and it merely adds to the ego and the mind's constant flow of generally useless thoughts that distract us from the present moment. Part of me questions if the imagination is simply an extension of the ego and the mind or if it's a tool of the soul to bring us closer to the Universe, God, and the Truth. In my current path, I'm trying to re-connect with my imagination in meditation and its power there is pretty respectable and humbling. I've witness a colored spectrum of me's that exist inside my soul and mind and I've had different experiences with each one. I've felt the healing power of a white light and I've been in near-trace states all thanks to my imagination during meditation, and this is what leads me to believe that meditation is the next logical evolution of imagination in adults.

Another part of me wonders if the stories and myths of old have to be replaced and if we need to retire the imagination to the deepest recesses of our minds at all. I keep referring to the stories of Christianity and Judaism to prove a point because people believe these stories today, even though they're pretty fantastic and mythical. Is it such a bad thing to believe that an ordinary guy could heal the sick or affect the weather in a massive way? Or that one's being chased by monsters in the forest or that angels are watching over us? I've noticed that effectively wielding my imagination brings fun into my life fairly easily. It's pretty obvious that even as far as our technology and science have come, we haven't quite figured everything out just yet. Pretending and maybe even thinking and feeling that a creature, whatever it may be, is kneeling next to me while I meditate in the woods makes me feel more connected to it all, and I think that's all that really matters, logic and rationale be damned.