Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Present and eternity

If the essence of Buddhism is to ask people giving up desire, then the essence of my “religion” is to ask people to give up the dream of eternity. Giving up desire is to giving up life, without life, we don’t have anything else. One of the tasks of religion is to solve the problem of death. We all know we will dead, in 40 years or so. We don’t feel good about it, and this thought bothers us, and hinders our pursue of happiness. What we can do about it? The trouble for death comes from our yearning for eternity. Thus, to solve this controversy, and keep the value of eternity, in most religion, we invented after life, we invented incarnation and God, and the otherly worlds. We cannot see the otherly worlds, thus we take another of energy to force us to believe in it. This belief without evidence, this a blindly belief, is called faith. All these are because we like to keep our value in eternity, not only for our species, but for our individuals. But unfortunately, as we know more, as the science advanced, we can almost prove such otherly words do not exist, and even more, there is nothing eternal in this world. Things are changing, the world we live in will no longer exist. This is true for earth, solar system, and the whole cosmos. Our human race is just a blink in the long history of earth’s history. It is no clearly at all civilization will survive very long. As for our individual, no one has seen a dead man walking. As we know the mechanism of our organic system, from how body works, to neuron’s firing, to our think and consciousness, there is no room, no mystery left for us to speculate the life after death. There is no life after death, that is a fact. So, what we should do. How can we solve the problem of finite life, and our yearning for infinity?

The answer is simple. We have to face the problem straight on. If we are so sure life is finite, and everything in this world is changing, why we insist on eternity. We need to have a fundamental change of our value system. After all, what is so good about eternity. For many of us, the thought of everlasting life is a dreadful, because it means there is no exit strategy. Even if you are having a happy life, which you don’t want to end, but if you have this happy life forever, will you still feel happy, will you get bore of it? The reason for feeling good is a reward from nature for us did something beneficial to our gene. But if we already passed down our gene, why the nature wants to keep us happy indefinitely? Besides, population over growth has already ramped this planet, there is no point to do that more. Furthermore, for best efficiency, nature always wants to keep things in balance. Thus, while there are happiness in our life, there are also struggle and pain in life. Thus ending the life can be quite a relief, a happy thing by itself. We can, and we should give up this yearning for the illusive eternity. Instead, we should turn around embrace the changing world, celebrate and enjoy our finite life. It is exactly because life is finite, so it is previous, and we need to enjoy every moment of it. To go with this, we also need to shift our value emphasis from eternity to the current moment. What most important is not eternity, but the current moment. Eternity is an illusion, but the current moment always exists. Anyone who still has a life, will have this moment. If there is anything eternal, it is this current moment, because it is always there with you, right in front of you. It is eternal in the space time.
So, in this “religion”, we don’t ask people to give up desire in everyday life, but we ask people to give up the desire of an everlasting life. In return, we promise people a happy life, and happiness is our starting point. We promise a happy life while you exist. Outside your existence, either beyond your physical space, or beyond your life time span, you are simply not there, thus the question of your happiness there does not exist. In this, we promise the happiness will always be with you. In our “religion”, the important thing is not how long a person lived, and even how much he has achieved at the end of his life, but how well he has lived his life. Living a life well means he has enjoyed every moment of his life, and had an exciting life throughout his existence. As for any lingering yearning for eternity, for something grant, bigger than ourselves, as long as we can feel an union between us and the surrounding world, an union between ourselves and our fellow human being, we know we are part of the nature, part of human existence, thus even if we die, the world will still exist, and other human being will still exist, their experience will be part of our human experience for which I am part of. Thus, at this higher level, we are eternal, and it exists in a much larger range and larger scale, much beyond our individual existence.
In summary, we have two interconnected points: the first is to give up the yearning for individual eternal life, instead we should focus on our current moment and surrounding. The second is to merge ourselves as part of this surrounding, part of the outside world, and human existence. In that sense, the eternality can still live on, the meaning of existence does not die with the end of our life, because we are part of a much larger existence. Our small and finite existence has served purpose of this much larger existence.

Emphasizing in the current moment doesn’t mean we have to hurry up doing everything faster, grasp every nanosecond of time, and feel pessimistic about the passage of every second of our life. We should not feel sorry about our finite life span. Thus, we should also not feel pity about the passing of time, and the ever shrinking of our remaining life. We should treasure and make a good usage of every moment. But the way of making a good usage is not to feel pity every minute. Instead, the way is to calmly face life, run things by its natural pace, follow the flow of things, enjoy every aspects of it. Being conscious about the delicacy of the things happening around us, we can find richness in every aspect of life. The nature will never fail in amazing us as long as we pay attention to life, and keep a curious mind. We can always find interesting things surrounding us, whether it is a simple stone which imbodied billions of years history in its making starting from the inner core of earth; or a flower which struggles to attract insects to spread its pollen, with a beautiful but fragile life just as you and me; or an animal which have the same eyes as us to watch this world, and we wonder what the world look like in its eyes; or a fellow human being, who have all our empathy and love, who define beauty and elegance in life. There are also things we cannot see with our naked eyes. If we can see them, they will certainly dazzle us. Every second, billions of the small particle neutrino pass our body, electron magnetic waves bounce around filling the sky, and there are ghostly heavy particles passing around us, ten times more massive than the materials we can see. The world is a truly wonderful place. Instead of being amazed by God’s creation, we should be amazed by natural’s wonder and power, how the simple rules of nature can create the complex and delicate life. We are the highest achievement of this life form in this planet, and we can wonder about our own creation. Nature is alive, by its wind, ocean wave, changing cloud, and calm spring. Nature is more alive, by the flower, the plant, the animal and us human being. We are the nature.

Present means the space and time surrounding us. Thus, by focusing on the present, we should pay attention to our surrounding, pay attention to our own existence. We should appreciate our surrounding, and follow the flow of our surrounding, being a part of this surrounding. Our happiness should come from the present, should come from this surrounding. Thus, it is essential to pay attention to it, to merge ourselves in this surrounding, unify us with the nature, and with our fellow human being, feel ourselves in this larger existence. In order to do that, we need to be close and intimate with our surrounding, connected closely with our fellow human being, instead of aloof from them. Only in that, we can feel we are part of them, and being union with them. Only when we reach this union with the nature, and with our fellow human being, we can feel at peace, and we can find happiness. We should do this with the consciousness of Zen, the empathy of Buddha, and the calmness of Tao. After we reached this union, we can realize our second point, thus we can feel a sense of eternity, not for ourselves, but for a bigger entity, either our human race, or the planet earth, or the nature itself. This sense of eternity should be enough to fight back our fear, the fear of a dark end. For this larger existence of which we individual are part of, there is no end, there is no limit. As a result, we will not be afraid of our own death, because life will go on, not with our own life, but with other people’s life. The body is different, but the experience is the same. As a result, there is also no need to capture every nanosecond of our life. Doing that will only fracture our life, makes the union with nature impossible. Our task is not to maximum the number of our experience, or to experience everything possible in this world. That is impossible. The number can be accumulated from other human being. Our task is to have a high quality of our experience given whatever our situation provided with us, and make sure every experience we have is a worthy and happy one, thus we can contribute our individual experience to the larger human experience.

This is our faith, the faith to focus on present, giving up the dream of individual eternity, replace it with a union with nature and fellow human being, and an eternity of this larger existence. I believe this is the best way to conduct our lives. Like any other faith, it is a blind belief, it is a choice. But it is a choice not against any of our knowledge, thus there is no need to build an artificial wall in our thinking. This is the advantage of this faith comparing with other ancient faiths, which are inconsistent with our modern knowledge. This faith requires us to abandon the yearning for infinity, but to appreciate and enjoy our finite existence. It requires us to focus on present, to focus on our surrounding. It also requires us to be close to the nature surrounding us, and to be intimate with our human being, so we can feel to be part of them. We don’t have an intimate relationship with God, but we should have an intimate relationship with nature and our fellow human being. This faith requires us to change our value system and moral system so we can fully focus on present, fully enjoy present, and we can be intimate with our fellow human being. This is not a faith of closing up (only open to God), but it is a faith of opening up, opening up to nature and to our fellow human being.