Laying in bed this morning I realized just how insignificant I am to the vast majority of living creatures. Of course, there are a few among them to whom I am extremely significant, but if you were to consider them percentage wise, they wouldn’t even register. The number would be something like 0.000000000…01% with the number of zeros being some large undefined number. A strange thought, but this is what happens to you when someone who was not insignificant to you dies.
Mitchell Jones, who wrote an excellent book called The Dogs of Capitalism, once wrote an equally excellent forum post called Ego Identity and the Mechanical Universe, which I periodically return to and think upon. Of course, now, it is coming again to mind.
I used to think the argument had a flaw – namely the idea that there could be an infinite amount of matter in the universe or an infinite number of combinations of said matter. But I don’t actually think that argument works anymore. At least there is no axiomatic necessity. Time and space are necessarily infinite, but matter is not and the potential combinations of matter seems necessarily finite given the laws of physics as we know them – a point clearly made in Mitchell’s original post with reference to gunpowder.
The next question of interest to me was whether an individual is just an arrangement of matter or if in fact there has to be some unique particle in order to form him. The question is a side argument and does not negate the original deduction, but it’s kind of interesting and given my current state of mind, it seemed relevant. It seems to me that there would have to be such a particle (or wave, or soul if that be what you want to call it) based on the fact that there is the potential for the existence of two separate beings with the exact same arrangement of matter. Would they see through two different sets of eyes at the same time? If not, then a unique aspect must exist. Of course if that’s the case, another question arises. Could that unique aspect ever be destroyed?
None of this is particularly comforting, although if you read Mitchell’s original post, it is so beautifully crafted that it feels that way at least for those of us for whom faith yields little. So, I started wondering an entirely different question. What exactly would be comforting?
So far, the closest I can come up with is something similar, but not quite exactly like the Buddhist idea that each life led well leads to a better starting point in the next one. Since this is pure fantasy at this point, we could make this work by assuming that the (at least) one unique particle necessarily included in the recipe that makes you, could be changed with each incarnation by all that you learn and discover in life and that the more you learn and discover, the more that particle changes and puts you on the fast track, so to speak, in your next life.
Comforting? I don’t know. At one point, while conversing about this with my cousin, he said “I’m not sure it’s even necessary.” No, it really isn’t – unless of course you are grieving.