Watch an infant's wide unfocused eyes play over an unfamiliar room, pulling together sense and structure from what is around him. Have they seen this all before. No...?
We edge slowly along from uncertainty towards certainty, from darkness to light - yet we are not even the tiniest fraction of the way along the infinitely long road from Zero to One. One life, one consciousness, one brief chance - is to be our only glimpse into this process?
I don't believe this is the case. The journey is long and much learning lies ahead. We must all learn to overcome the reptile in the brain, that dim, brutal and selfish animal within us, and allow in the angelic; this is spiritual evolution; willing yourself ever closer along that multi-billion year-long path towards God-ness, towards absolute understanding; total Universal unity and infinite consciousness.
We will all die, but the atoms that make us, those atoms maintaining formation within the molecules of our DNA, within our protein - those atoms will keep on spinning as they have done so for many billions of years. What will we have taught them? For when they return to the soil, they will spin on, bearing with them fragments of memory and will and consciousness.
And they return from the dark collective of that rich loam once more as individual and conscious life, they will be another tiny step closer to God. The following phrase popped unbidden into my mind one day: "There is a seamless continuum which our souls observe through myriad eyes". We live, we learn, we die, we are reborn; it must happen many times.
The daughter of a famous Polish author, buried at Powązki cemetery in Warsaw, told me that each time she visits the grave, she finds objects left on it by his fans. One year, she noticed a plant growing by the headstone. She decided to leave it, and to let it grow. It grew into a plum tree. She realised that the fruit was nurtured by her father's body, and took some plums to her own garden, to let them grow into trees. This reminded me of a passage from Bill Bryson's book A Short History of Nearly Everything. And I quote:
"[Atoms] are fantastically durable. Because they are so long-lived, atoms really get around. Every atom you possess has almost certainly passed through several stars and been part of millions of organisms on its way to becoming you. We are each so atomically numerous and so vigorously recycled at death that a significant number of atoms - up to a billion for each of us, it has been suggested - probably once belonged to Shakespeare. A billion more each came from Buddha and Genghis Khan and Beethoven, and any other historical figure you care to name. (The personages have to be historical, apparently, as it takes the atoms some decades to become thoroughly redistributed...)
So we are all reincarnations - though short-lived ones. When we die, our atoms will disassemble and move off to find new uses elsewhere - as part of a leaf, or other human being or drop of dew. Atoms themselves, however, go on practically for ever."Is this how consciousness flows from one living being to the next? I don't know. Nice as it would be to construct a theology around this, all I can only honestly say: "I don't know, but I want to know, and will continue to seek."
So - if you wish to hurry your atoms to get recycled quickly into another conscious human being soon after your death - is it better to be buried or cremated?
Again, I haven't a clue; it's futile trying to work it out. There are billions of years to go before our sun fades and dies and billions more before the Universe slows down before beginning to contract. Conjecture; one for cosmologists to work out. In the meantime, the spiritual drive, the quest for higher awareness, drives us onwards.
The Universe: what's out there, what our humanity means in the scale of our galaxy and all the other hundreds of billions of galaxies out there - this is an absolutely must-read piece.
Next: dealing with evil on the universal scale
Previous post in this series: a glimpse of the afterlife
This time two years ago:
Images of God
This time three years ago:
City-centre living, Warsaw-style
This time four years ago:
Communist plaque on Zygmunt's Column
This time seven years ago:
Three weeks into Lent