We’re incredibly fortunate to be in a time and place where we have the luxury of contemplating existence.
In the grand scheme of things, it is an exceedingly rare privilege to have a physical form capable of being a window through which the universe can look at itself. It is even rarer not to have war or famine or poverty threatening this vessel, or madmen running around smashing our windows simply because some prefer to hang different curtains.
All the wealth we have around us in the west doesn’t mean anything unless we can use it as a backdrop for the exploration of Truth, the only thing that has any value in and of itself.
Everything in the material world that we invest ourselves in will turn to dust. Physical pleasure only lasts a moment and leads to wanting more. Accomplishments, victories, mansions, and cars may outlive us- but only a bit. It’s only a matter of time before the earth reclaims all of our creations, wooden fences and iphones alike.
I have to remind myself that my great great grandson will have ask little inkling as to who I am as I have about who my great-great grandfather was. All my neurosis, all the drama that I personally encounter, all my creations will one day vanish to the point of total obscurity; the odds of anyone remembering who I am in 500 years are minute. I am a tiny drop in the ocean, a miniscule tributary in the greater flow of life.
And yet, I have the ability to become aware of all this, which is pretty damn remarkable. After all these billions of years of evolution, through the countless varieties of species and the incalculable number of individuals who have come and gone, I have somehow emerged to become aware of the process itself. Perhaps this is what the universe is cooking up all along, why it has gone to trouble of constructing pure, unmanifest consciousness in the straightjackets of time and space.
The contemplation of this abstract, impersonal truth is why Plato had his philosopher kings study mathematics for decades. There’s something about aspiring to see things objectively that’s profoundly transformative, in the same way that realizing that money is just paper and ink that we’ve endowed with value leads you to stop seeing it as intrinsically valuable.
The “view from nowhere” is transformative not because it gives you realizations to hold onto as protection against time’s ceaseless onslaught. Quite opposite, in fact: loosening the grasp on your personality brings you in contact with just how much that you, as an ego-based organism, cannot possibly know.
This is frightening at first, but gradually you can learn to be comfortable in your role as a tiny vessel. Humility arises when you begin to awaken to the dimensions of life that you had overlooked in your busyness. You gradually develop the courage to affirm that I, as an individual, am nothing, but that I, as an expression of the Mystery that underlies all creation, am “on fire with the same force that lights the stars,” as David Foster Wallace said.
Only when you realize how small you are does it become clear how big You really are.
To let the river take you where you need to go, to see every object and person as alarm clocks just waiting to go off and wake you up: this is how one can briefly taste eternity in the supermarket checkout line.