In the Beginning, there wasn’t much…
Some would argue that there was less than that.
Maybe something negative.
Or some kind of polar Suchness.
An I Am.
We can rejoice in that or accept the Unbearable Lightness of Being.
Existentialism doesn’t have to be dour.
Then again, it can be a real Buzzkill:
What if the Gods don’t love us?
What if we’re just a houseplant, or worse, an infestation?
What if, despite our protestations, the Gods are Real, and They Just Don’t Care?
Part of growing up, as human beings, is realizing our parents, our caregivers, are not Gods.
What if the Gods aren’t either?
Buddha was asked about this.
He didn’t deny the Gods.
But he did deny some things.
He denied any soul.
Anatta, said the Buddha.
The first delusion is self-hood.
Understand that, and you understand the next step:
But the Gods? Buddha didn’t question their existence at all.
He merely called them out:
They’ve got no business with us, and vice versa.
Maybe that’s how our synthetic children will feel…
The Three Marks of Existence: trilakṣaṇa
In Buddhism, our lives – the lives of all sentient beings – are characterized by three experiences – all of which leave a mark.
First, Everything Changes.
Everything is transient, and temporary.
All we love will die, in time.
In one of the early Buddhist myths, Siddhartha visits his father. His father offers him everything:
the Keys to the Kingdom,
Fame, power, glory,
Sex, Drugs, Rock ‘n’ Roll
What?!? You say!!!
This is the same Sid who had been tempted by the incarnation of Blind Lust, Mara.
The Demon of Desire.
If you will, the Buddhist Devil.
He hadn’t shed any ground at all. But now, here was his father.
And so, Sid agreed.
On One Condition…
Sid’s whole message can be summed up in one symbol.
In physics, S = entropy.
S never leaves us.
It follows us, day in and out.
Time, the Devourer.
Or, to quote a man who was praised by no less than Albert Einstein as “the greatest mind in American history”:
Any method involving the notion of entropy, the very existence of which depends on the second law of thermodynamics, will doubtless seem to many far-fetched, and may repel beginners as obscure and difficult of comprehension.
Willard Gibbs, Graphical Methods in the Thermodynamics of Fluids
So, what was Sid’s response to his father?
“Everything is Impermanent; Anicca.
Therefore, I suffer; Dukha.
Make me forever young. My friends, my lovers, my family.”
“Our friends, our lovers, our family. Give me that, father.”
We can only imagine who broadly Sid’s dad must have smiled.
And wept quietly, on the inside.
And the takeaway?
How we treat life is at least as important as we treat death. *
Regardless, Nothing Lasts Forever.
And that is the observation of the first Mark of Existence, as laid down by Siddhartha Gautama Sakyamuni, a.k.a. Buddha.
* “How we treat life is at least as important as we treat death” is a line I cribbed from Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. Star Trek is equally guilty of sometimes being Buddhist.