“There was a time, before we were born, if someone asks, this is where I’ll be. Where I’ll be…”
Prelude to No Beginning:
A brief side trip to When Was I Not Here
There is a funny slash peculiar side to consciousness, to this being + identity stuff.
It has to do with the moments when we “drift away,” when we “lose” our selves in something, in some event or activity, or in sleep.
For an easy example, we often go on “auto-pilot,” say, during periods of driving a car. (And this brings up something curious about “body consciousness” that we will return to in a later blog.)
We lose our sense of self, or the environment, including others, often in a trance type state.
But here’s the peculiar fact, or the one side of a peculiar fact: We are still there, the actor, however without the “me” so much.
And then here’s the other side of the peculiar fact: we at some point return to our sense of “me.”
So, really, we dip in and out of “me,” and pretty often.
Now I would say that this is the closest we come to experiencing death (besides sleep)—when we “aren’t there” so to speak.
And the real interesting part of this is not the leaving, but that second side, the moment when we “come back.”
It’s almost like life, existence, identity, is a worldwide game of peekaboo. We cover our eyes, or divert our attention, and the world doesn’t exist. We drop our hands and There It Is!
We have always looked in the wrong direction for the proof of life after death. We have always wanted the dead other to come back to us, to once and for all prove there is another side.
But in fact, we’ve never known us, our “me”s to not exist. For every time we lose ourselves, no matter how long, no matter how deep the sleep, eventually the hands come off the eyes at some point, Peekaboo! We’re Back.
We will never know when we were not here. Others can tell you about life before you were born on this planet. But all you know is you woke up one day, today, right now, and you are here.
No Beginning, or,
Not the Beginning You Always Assumed
So now let’s talk about that waking up one day (every day!) and you are here fact.
We don’t really have any sense of a beginning to this life, do we? Early memories of life on earth is about all we can point to, and those drift in, out, and away, right?
Our basic understanding is we were conceived, grew for a time inside our mother, outgrew and was pushed out of that environment to start living a quasi-independent creaturehood.
As creatures we enjoy, or don’t enjoy, a number of days and dreams until, for whatever reason(s), we slip out of, or are ejected from our body forever.
Something like this, right?
Just a simple, inevitable progression from sperm smash ovum and then cut umbilical to the last blink, right?
What part of that line, signifying the waking days and sleeping nights, do we point to as “our life?”
The present perhaps. The dot between birth and death—You Are Here. And then our memories, conjured and recalled in whatever form, right? Of course the memories of others as well.And then there is our imagination, doing the projecting backward and forward. Perhaps a few artifacts to remind us of the past.
But if that is the conscious experience of our lifeline, the present and the memories and the imagination, where is the beginning of that life, in our conscious experience? An ultrasound picture? A video of arriving home for the first time? An in utero memory? Something we make up?
If the beginning is so sketchy or hazy or non-existent, then we are just taking a lot for granted about where we began, aren’t we?
In the previous blog I argued against the existence (ha, ha) of death. Now I am going to argue against conception/birth as the beginning of the life/self that survives bodily death.
The first logical proof is extremely easy if you accept that there is life after death. If you agree that we live after this life then let’s return to that previous lifeline, starting at the usual starting point, conception or birth.
If the person survives bodily death, then the line extends beyond death. Off beyond the edge of the page, into eternity.
Well, my logical contention is:
Eternity stretches in both directions.
I know that it is too easy, too simple, but that is what the definition of eternity and immortality actually implies—if you believe in surviving death.
If the immortality line continues past physical reality/being in a body, then doesn’t it make sense that it stretches back in the other direction, to the time before we had a body (“before we were born”)?
And if a conscious self survives the body, maybe a conscious self preceded the body. (And as was brought up in the prelude, we aren’t always conscious, strictly speaking, in the body either.)
Okay, so you don’t yet accept we survive bodily death and so don’t accept the eternity-both-directions argument.
Let’s go with our logic and intuition then and think about whether it makes sense that our consciousness started with cellular division.
The first question I would ask is: how does matter, dead and dumb physical “stuff,” become first of all, life, and second of all, conscious? Hmmmmm? But that’s too inflammatory and we will have to tackle that one on its own later on.
So let’s skip that false dualism and stick with how growing life matter becomes a full-fledged person.
I ask you: why does a baby already seem to have a personality as soon as you meet him or her? And that’s just at birth itself. Why is it that only months into the new life you know that there really is a unique individual already present? Simply a result of DNA? It can’t be culture/nurture. So where is the personality gene? Or is it the hardwiring/hardware? Then where does the software come from? From the hardware? That’s a weird loop. (Shoot, we keep returning to that first question. Let’s keep moving.)
I am just saying that it would be awfully hard to build a person from scratch from simple cellular division and “aging.” DNA and the layout of the brain is used to explain “characteristics” but character showing up immediately without the ability to process life and experience because of having a brand new mind? A lot has to be written on that tabula for a personality to take hold, don’t you think?
You can argue about a unique structure of synapses + DNA = the Person, from the very start. But you look a baby in the eyes and you know there is more to it than that. Where did she come from? And why does she seem so familiar?
And that goes for the experience with other strangers. There is the feeling upon first meeting a person, someone that you have never met in this life, and both of you feel you’ve known each other forever—from a time before.
Or the other way around, when you haven’t seen a good friend in years, that you get together and pick right up with the closeness you’ve always had—something that seems timeless.
You can believe it all, every bit of life, starts with a sperm/egg explosion—and something supremely powerful does occur on the physical end, in that moment—but that’s really an unfulfilling, but also very illogical premise to build a world upon. Again, we will discuss that more in the so-called future.
For now, let’s just “What If…?” the idea that maybe we “are” before we are born. That perhaps we come from some other “place,” not a physical location, to inhabit a body for a period of time. You know, for the “Earth Experience.”
Many cultures and religions do believe this. It’s not unheard of.
This “What If…?” brings with it a whole bunch of issues/questions of course, but this assertion also may answer a lot of nagging questions, and… it brings with it many intriguing possibilities.
I am only going to bring up one of those IPs today, and the rest can stew for a while until future IYWMYO blogs stir this pot.
The one revelation that comes from this assertion that I will throw out here today is the possibility that our life here has meaning/purpose.
That’s a big one. A game changer in fact.
If we come here from somewhere else, stay a while here, then move on to another somewhere else, then this place was either chosen or we were cast into it. (Perhaps a little of both?)
Stated another way:
If we were some self before this body (since we are going to be some self after this body), then why this body, time, and place, and not some other?
I would aver that it’s a combination of choices, but not made in isolation.
Look around you, at the people in your life, the ones that have been with you since the beginning, and those you have met and continue to meet on your path. Think for a second whether, as in the Talking Heads song, you might have had a plan for this life, and it included significant others:
The more you think about it the more it makes sense, and could start to explain a lot of nagging things, many of which happen every day and seem so right, or so wrong.
Most everybody has heard of reincarnation. I call this concept Pre-incarnation or preincarnation.
Robert Schwartz has written two compelling books on the subject, which he terms “Pre-Birth Planning.”
Think on this a while. Consider those close to you, and your “enemies.” There is a good chance you are not only playing out a planned story, for many reasons, but also you may be playing out your stories with the same actors in many times and places.
The hardest and maybe scariest bit is to not really have a sense of a beginning. And being stuck in the time/space cause/effect continuum, it’s really hard to grok no beginning at all. But at least the idea that we had a preincarnational plan for this life takes away the even scarier randomness of one sperm hitting an egg at the right angle and whoops, there you are!
Next Post: Every sperm/egg is precious. Just kidding.