Coded gray.

Tuesday 9 September 2003

Everyday picture of a middle aged man

Pic of the day: I think we can agree that I'm no longer 24. What am I looking forward to?

Eternal life?

I have spent the day recovering from yesterday's sickness. In the morning, I cooked water and let it cool before drinking it. Later when I grew hungry, I ate fine bread dipped in a light broth. As usual, breaking bread made me think about the Lord Jesus, although I fervently hoped this was not my last supper.

This life is so short and fragile. Everlasting life sounds great to me, although some others think they would be bored. Somehow boredom is an anti-problem to me as long as I am even moderately healthy. I always feel time slipping through my fingers. Even when I play computer games (as I did again today) I do so not to kill time but to enjoy it. Yes, unlimited time seems like a personalized gift for Magnus Itland.


Frankly, reincarnation seems like a bad compromise between resurrection and evolution. You lose your memories and skills and start over, presumably with some deep unutterable experience that helps you choose better this time. Or at least gives you a chance to do so. But choosing the right thing is hard enough even when you have vivid memories of your past. I am old enough to know. And if I forget this life, what guarantee do I have that I don't undo the lessons I have learned and get myself trapped in more webs of illusion? Certainly some people seem to do just that.

Now, evolution is another matter. Mostly because the individual's fate doesn’t matter so much. In a sense we are all "reincarnated" to some extent: The body is reincarnated in our kids, if any, and the soul in those who observe us and listen to us. We are dispersed, so to speak. And as time goes by, some parts of us may converge again, come together by chance or by their very nature of appearing together. The person in which they come together will have no memories of anyone long before in which the same traits dominated, unless they are told so. But that's OK, because it's not meant to be the same person. And hopefully the next round is improved in some way. For the species, that kind of evolution may be a nice alternative. But for an individual, there is little comfort in it.

It is probably for the comfort mainly that I cling to the hope of resurrection. Even Jesus is a bit vague on the topic, even though he resurrected a few people himself (temporarily) and eventually was resurrected by God. Yet at the Last Supper event, he said in prayer: "And this is the eternal life, that they know you, the one true God, and he who you sent, Jesus Christ." This sounds entirely like mysticism. And the creepy thing is that I agree, when I'm not too afraid to think clearly.


My body is inherited from my ancestors. Although there are on average a couple mutations in each of us, they are usually very small. (The mutation rate is higher in humans than in other primates, probably because of our longer generations. The human male is the engine of mutation, as his sperm keep dividing and multiplying at high speed throughout life. The older your father, the more likely you are to be a mutant. I'm the youngest kid in our family, but I'm not exactly the seventh son of a seventh son, so don't expect miracles.) By and large, I am simply a combination of tried and tested genes that have been used before and will be used again.

The same goes for the mind: The very words I write have been shaped by countless people through thousands of years. And higher structures are the same: I did not invent eating with a fork or drinking from a glass, living in rectangular houses or sitting in chairs. Most of our life consists of either learning from others or teaching to others the same things that we learned. Very little have we produced on our own.

Now you can protest: The combination is unique. There have not been exactly that blend of genes before, and not of knowledge either. But as for the knowledge, it changes over time. Many things that I knew are now forgotten, and some have been unlearned as they proved to be just plain wrong. Other things are learned since then, and some of them may again be forgotten or overwritten if I keep living and learning. The person I am today and the person I was 20 years ago ... we are quite a bit different, even though I still feel that I am the same. If I woke up tomorrow with the mind of my 24 year old self, I would not fit in.

At least some of us have done some processing of the knowledge we have. We have combined, evaluated, ranked, compared. Some of this is probably unique. And I do my best to share it with the world. To disperse it before it goes to oblivion. You may say, if I really believed in resurrection, would I feel that need? After all, the knowledge and insight I may have would be safe with me. Well, I just told you that even in this life we change over time. And besides, others may be able to do more with my thoughts than I do. They may indeed refine them so that in the future they converge again in a more evolved form, regardless of my death or life.

Be that as it may, I would still like eternal life, or (failing that) resurrection and THEN eternal life. Because I really love my life. It is wonderful being me, and the only really big problem is that it seems to be temporary. I wish you all could be like me in that way, only without that restriction.

Yesterday <-- This month --> Tomorrow?
One year ago: I'll never know Korea
Two years ago: Family values
Three years ago: The black hole
Four years ago: A farewell (and not to arms)

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