I woke up this morning with a couple burning questions on my mind along with some disturbing answers:
Q – “Do I exist?”
A – “It sure seems like I do.”
Q – “How can I know for sure?”
A – “Damn good question!!!”
Q – “Why do I need to know?”
A – “Seems self-evident – so I’ll feel alive (you know, the opposite of dead)…”
I acknowledge that I find it more than a little important to know if I’m still alive. Moment-to-moment mechanisms within me monitor to make sure I continue to exist. When my heart beats, for example, my nervous system notices and sets up the sequence of events necessary to make it beat again – nothing quite like success to motivate repeat behavior. If it doesn’t beat or an element of the sequence fails, a cascade of body functions jumps into action to bring about another beat. Repeating this pattern seems important to me!
It occurred to me this morning that my body must rely upon memory. That is, some aspect of my being remembers whether, when, and how my heart last beat, for example. It remembers enough about who I was to remind me each time I awake in the morning. It perhaps reminds me much more often than that. I know people who have lost that memory and struggle to exist moment-to-moment – and have died perhaps as a result?
In other words, I may not be who I AM – rather, I could instead be who I WAS.
That concept bothers me. By the time my mind is aware of who I am now, that now has long passed. It would appear to me that were my heart to stop beating, my life would cease to be. But no, that’s not the case at all. Even if I were to die “instantly,” my mind might not be aware of that cessation for some time (even if only microseconds – it’s still in the past). I could cease to exist in the present instant and be totally unaware of it – IF I were to then return to existence in a short enough period of time.
Perception requires time. In the instant that is now, and now, and now again, the present slips out of reality into a realm of imagination – the past. By the time I perceive that I exist as I do, I no longer exist as I did then because time has passed and this now is no longer that now.
To revisit my questions –
- Do I exist?
- Can I know I exist?
- Why do I need to know?
To revisit my answers –
- Perhaps only in a past that doesn’t exist anymore! So, maybe not!
- I don’t know if it is possible to know – only to experience.
- Maybe my need to know I exist overrules reality such that I IMAGINE that I’m alive moment-to-moment. In that case, maybe I only exist as a phantom in a universe that exists in the same way – as a phantom of a past that no longer exists (because it is no longer NOW)?
The sun I see above me looked like it did over 8 minutes ago because the light took that long to reach my eye from there. My NOW is the sun’s 8-minute-ago past. Even the body I experience now is how it appeared milliseconds to seconds ago. I’m not at all certain that there is any part of me that exists (perceives) in the present.
For that matter – I’m not at all certain the present exists. Perhaps only the past exists. It SEEMS that I’m perceiving life NOW, yet when I investigate further, I realize that the present is merely a concept impossible to experience because my senses lag behind by a time longer than an instant. In other words, when it comes to time, I live in 2d time (a time line) rather than 1d (a point in time).
The instant of now is gone before it can be perceived, measured, or otherwise recorded. Even a snapshot of now is instantly in the past. That NOW – the one in the snapshot – NO LONGER EXISTS! I wonder if that single-dimension point of time ever existed at all in this two-dimensional, dualistic universe.
When I ask, “What IS now?” I have to admit – I have no idea. Even my concept takes time to develop and express. I can no more imagine an instant than I can live in one. I require PASSAGE of time to experience it because I am an inhabitant of a multidimensional universe.
And yet, I wonder if the past actually exists. I can bring it back only in my imagination – not in reality. Even when I look far into the past – look up into the clear night sky and you’re looking into the distant past – that past is, well, passing into the even more distant past. It’s a time LINE, ever-progressing from instant to instant into oblivion?
COULD IT BE that neither now nor then exist at all? I wouldn’t – maybe can’t – know for sure.
If I don’t exist at all… and my universe doesn’t either… well… hmm…. COOL!!!