I have been alive for 32 years. Which itself is a weird thing to think about. One year marks the earth’s orbit around the sun during which time is spun for about 365 days. A day spans 24 units of the earth’s spin. All that to say, time has no real existence beyond measuring certain celestial movements.
Why should I define my life and growth on the basis of the movement of planets and stars? Why do they get to tell me I am 32 of something? I am here on earth, existing, and the planet and star (the Sun) I am on and orbit define something essential to who I am.
But do they really? Well, they do because I relate my growth, my change to a set of consistent rotations of the earth, whether it is the earth’s spin or its orbit of the sun.
And yet they do not absolutely define something true about me, but only relatively. What I call a year really amounts to an arbitrary measure of change from one state to another. I walk across my town over 60 units of 60 other units—one hour! But all that has really happened is that I moved from one state to another, one place to another place.
The earth also moved faster than me. And so the cosmos get their win once again. The stars rule me, and I am but a speck among the cosmic movements of the celestial window above.
I suppose this should humble me. It does. It also frustrates me. I do not want my liberty curtailed by something out of my control and out of my ability to change. I do not own the calendar. We all possess it, I suppose, even if we have somewhat different calendars across the globe.
But such a frustration really is at myself not the lordly lights above. They stand there by a higher authority and have no ill will against me. It is not their fault that they guide and rule the seasons, demarcating my life.
Someone will one day know the day of birth and the day of my death on the basis of the stars, not on the basis of any absolute thing.
But will they know how I changed from birth to death? Will they know the relationships that I forged, the works I created, the effect that I had on my community? Probably not. I hope so. But realistically, the tyranny of time will continue, and I will be forgotten.
From dust I came, and to dust I go.
Life is not really an encouraging thing to consider. It basically leads to a sort of nihilistic view of nothingness. Even time does not exist, and so the four years you spent feeding the poor or gaining a degree were no time at all. You did not spend that time. You merely changed, and hopefully your change affected other people’s change in positive ways.
Change just means growth. I grew in size from 1 to 5 years of age. I grow in thought. Now, I am old enough where my body decays. I can grow somewhat, but never like before.
Now time defines my decay to death.
My flesh breaks. My mind does not.
I do not mean “my brain.” My brain likely will break, hopefully much later.
By mind, I mean something like consciousness. The fact that I can sit here and write words about the illusion of time and cosmic tyranny and the growth and decay of flesh means that I am at minimum very aware of the world around me and of myself.
I am aware. I know that I know. That is odd. What animal considers consciousness as such? They act by instinct, we think. And so I may be an animal, but I am a rational animal unlike the other animals who cannot think as I can.
That explains what I mean by mind. As a rational animal, I have the capacity to conceive of the universe and myself.
Now, this alleviates my frustration at time because it tells me something very important. I am more than the sum of cosmic movements that define my growth and decay. These movements also define how I have, it seems, grown in mind. But if mind is something that does not exactly line up with flesh or brain, then I have something that can bend back against the terrible will of the stars.
But from this perspective, the stars no longer tyrannize. They amaze. I participate in the cosmos. I am part of a whole, and that it is a good thing. I am conscious. I am participating.
I am not simply a mechanism in a computer. I am conscious that I am in fact somewhere, even there in a computer. If we grant that point which many want to do these days, then I would be self-aware of being a simulation. And that would defeat the purpose of a being a simulation since I would transcend the design of a being a mechanism.
Actually, being self-aware tells us something quite profound about existence. Whatever or whomever created us did so in such a way as to not make us programs in a machine that only do what the coder encodes. We are conscious.
I do not say free. We are not free to do what we wish, as if I could fly like a bird. And the fact that I have many choices means that I am bound to choose. True freedom means the total lack of alternatives and the free embrace of the best things without need for deliberation.
I am off track.
God created us in a spectacular way is what I meant to convey. That I am conscious shows it. That you are, and that we can share our conscious minds through the symbols of letters over electrical impulses across geography and time (since you will read this after I write it) demonstrates another odd facet about consciousness.Two minds can concur in certain ways apart from physical location.
So I started by lamenting age and time and growth. Now, I am amazed at mind and consciousness. I did not make myself conscious of course.
I am awed at what God has done.
By fiat, it seems, I am made to reflect who God is. He has no body. So no flesh. Thus, he does not have nerves like I do. That latter fact stands to reason because he can be everywhere at once in some super-local way.
So it must be that his image reflected in me has more to do with my mind than it does with my toe.
So that divine part of me, my mind, grows. It unites with others. And it is not my brain. Which means, when my gravesite contains my body, my mind won’t be there.
When I cross the River Styx to that next place, my mind will continue to grow, affect others, and perdure. I won’t be over. When the wisp of this life evaporates, I will become truly human again. And there, my failures and wounds will be shed. There to remember perhaps, but not there to wound and hold back.