Everything that is part of us—our cells, tissues, organs and organ systems—has come about over billions of years because it proved successful in the great survival stakes during our perilous evolutionary descent (ascent) with modification. The brain, being no exception, evolved, in part, to allow a creature to learn from what happens in its life, to retain key elements that could influence future actions.
We are geared for self-preservation. We will do anything to avoid facing the possibility that who we are now cannot continue. We ourselves are mainly the cause that we are interested in. The self is preoccupied with staying alive, which is why our species is still around today. It is a prime biological function to be afraid of death, and, so, the self, as thus contrived, is able to fully play its crucial survival role. We want to equip our brain with a ‘soul’ that offers us an escape when the brain dies since the self cannot come to terms with its own extinction.
From a subjective standpoint, we are all born equal and undifferentiated (before that, ‘we’ were dead), but, as mature selves we make a distinction between the individual and the surroundings. Still, the brain keeps changing throughout life, in a pattern of the shifting flux of its neurons; we gain and lose memories and feelings, essentially creating a new person over and over again. The self is thus not so rock solid as it seems. These moment-to-moment changes differ from death only in degree. In essence, they are identical, although at the opposite ends of the spectrum. So, we are not static things.
Other neural networks will come to be in other, future people, albeit with an ‘amnesia’ of what went on before in the brains of the previous others. Why should we be happy about this? We never can be, because the ‘I’ cannot operate outside of its own boundaries. The only viable alternative is to think of a way in which it is possible to ever continue on. What will it be like to be a part of someone else after we die, with our own particular narrative of life cast aside? This is the ‘zen’ of now and then and when.
Everything happens, even over and over again, if not in this universe then in the others that could be…
The Eternal Return
Behind the veil, being that which ev’r thrives, the Eternal Nothing has ever been alive. Some time it needed to variate everything for, and now sometimes ‘knows’ how these bubbles to pour, of existence in some ‘meant’ universe, those that wrote your poem and mine, every verse. So, as thus, thou lives on yester’s credit line, in nowhere’s midst—now in this life of thine, as of its bowl our cup of brew was mixed into this state of being that’s called ‘mine’.
Yet worry you that this Cosmos is the last, that the likes of us will become the past, space wondering whither whence we went after the last of us her life has spent? The Eternal Saki has thus formed trillions of baubles like ours, and will form, forevermore—the comings and passings of which it ever emits to immerse in those universal bubbles blown and burst.
So, fear not that a debit close your account and mine, knowing the like no more; the Eternal Source from its pot has pour’d zillions of bubbles like ours, and will pour.
When you and I behind the cloak are past, but the long while the next universe shall last, which of humans’ approach and departure it grasps as might the sea’s self heed a pebble-cast.
Be of good cheer--the sullen month will die, and a young moon requite us by and by: look how the old one meagre, bent, and wan with age and fast, is fainting from the sky! (a Fitzgerald quatrain that’s not in his ‘Rubaiyat’)