13.7 billion years

 

My birthday is coming up, and a couple of people have asked how old I am.

In the context of birthdays the answer is simple. It is the age of this human organism after it emerged from the womb.

But there are many other ways of answering the question. Each one equally valid and meaningful, and sometimes even more meaningful.

This organism was born a certain number of years ago, although the dynamics and shape of this organism has changed dramatically since then. The only thing that tells me it is the same organism are stories of different types – name, memories, photographs etc.

My subjective age is different. I experience myself as infinitely old, very young, as about 20 years old, when I am reminded of it – about the age of this organism, and as having no age at all.

This organism was conceived and developed for about 9 months prior to its birth and becoming visible to others, so that is a more accurate age than years from birth.

It is made up of energy and matter incorporated into this organism right now – through breath, and back a decade or so – through eating, drinking and breathing.

This organism, in the ways it perceives, operates and functions in the world, is an expression of human culture. In that sense, it is between 0 and a few tens or hundreds of thousands years old, depending on what we think of as the earliest expressions of culture.

This organism cannot exist without the wider ecological and social systems. It is, in a very real sense, an expression of this living and evolving planet. This organism is one of the ways the Earth is exploring and expressing itself. All aspects of this organism and the ways it functions has evolved over the course of the evolution of Earth as a living system, so in that sense, it is about 4 billion years old.

Everything in this organism – in the way it looks, perceives, functions – is an expression of the evolution of Earth from its very beginnings, going back 4.5 billion years.

The energy and matter in this organism came through water, air and food. Before then, it has flowed through many other organisms similar to water flowing through a vortex in a stream. It has flowed through Earth’s systems – always reorganizing itself and fulfilling different functions – since the birth of this planet. Before then, much of it – all the heavier elements – were born through a succession of supernovas. And matter itself – in the form of the very lightest atoms – emerged some 13 billion years ago, not long after the emergence of this universe.

This organism and the ways it operates in the world is an expression of the habits of this universe, which has evolved over 13.7 billion or so years. Everything in and around me – sensations, emotions, thoughts, actions, culture, biology, this living planet, solar systems, galaxies – are expressions of 13.7 billion years of evolution of this particular universe. If one age takes priority over any other, it must be this – the most fundamental age of this organism and the systems it is an expression of.

And if I look I see that all of this is happening within an overlay of stories, and these stories – and anything else in experience – is happening here now, including the story of a here and now. In immediacy, age only exists within a story, as does past, future and present.

All of this can remain a fun intellectual exploration. And as usual, it gets juicy when I explore it further – here and now.

For all the stories of an age between 0 and 13.7 billion years old, I can I see, feel and find appreciation for each one. I can see it – with specific and detailed examples. I can feel it – take time for it to sink in, allowing it to reorganize my sense of me and how I view myself, others, the Earth and the Universe as a whole . I can find a natural appreciation for it – awe, humility, gratitude.

For the last story, about all happening here now, I can use it as a pointer for inquiry, for exploring it in immediacy. When I look, what do I find in each sense field? What is happening in sensation? In sight? In sound? In smell? In taste? In the mental field? Can I notice the overlay of images on all the sense field? Can I notice how the mental field ties it all together into gestalts? What about the sense of me as a human being in the world? How does it appear in each sense field? What happens when I recognize the gestalt of a “me” as simply a gestalt? What about the sense of “I” as a doer or observer? How does that appear in each sense field? What happens when “I” is recognized as an image and gestalt? Is it content of experience? Is it really any different from any other content of experience? What happens when the image and sense of “I” is recognized as content of experience, just as any other content of experience?

All of this is an exploration of using these stories as guides for attention and action – as tools. What happens when I use them in my own life? What happens when we use them collectively, through a combination of science, art, music, new and always evolving myths, and contemporary and fun rituals?

……………
……………

– better organization….
— age since birth
— subjective age
— this body + food
— culture
— evolution of Earth
— habits of this universe

…………………………..
…………………………..

My birthday is coming up, and a couple of people have asked how old I am.

In the context of birthdays the answer is simple. It is the age of this human organism after it emerged from the womb.

But there are many other ways of answering the question. Each one equally valid and meaningful, and sometimes even more so.

This organism was born a certain number of years ago, although the dynamics and shape of this organism has changed dramatically since then. The only thing that tells me it is the same organism are stories of different types – name, memories, photographs etc.

It was conceived about 9 months earlier, which is perhaps the more real age of this particular organism.

It is made up of matter which was incorporated – through air, food and water – into this organism from now and back about 10 years. There is a constant flow of matter and energy through this and any other organism, similar to water flowing through a vortex in a stream.

This matter was created – in its current form – from anywhere between now and several billions of years ago. As it gets incorporated into this organism, it reorganizes and changes. The particular molecules I take in come from animals and plants and were taken in by them over the last few weeks, months or years. The particular combination of molecules were created through evolution over the last several millions of years. The molecules themselves were created in stars and supernovas a few billions of years ago. Matter itself emerged some 13 billion years ago, not long after the emergence of this universe.

This organism cannot exist without the wider ecological and social systems, and it is – in a very real sense – an expression of this living planet. It is one of the ways the Earth is exploring and expressing itself. All aspects of this organism and the ways it functions has evolved over the course of the evolution of Earth life, so in that sense, it is about 500,000+ years old.

And the evolution of Earth as a living system is a continuation of the evolution of Earth in general, going back 4.5 billion years.

Culture is one of the ways Earth is exploring and expressing itself, and this organism – in the ways it operates and functions in the world – is an expression of human culture, so in this sense it is between 0 and a few tens or hundreds of thousands years old, depending on what we think of as culture.

This organism and the ways it operates in the world is an expression of the habits of this universe, which has evolved over 13.7 billion or so years. Everything in and around me – sensations, emotions, thoughts, actions, culture, biology, this living planet, solar systems, galaxies – are expressions of 13.7 billion years of evolution of this particular universe. If one age takes priority over any other, it must be this – the most fundamental age of this organism and the systems it is an expression of.

experience myself as infinitely old and also as having no age at all, or maybe as about 20 years old.

And if I look I see that all of this is happening within an overlay of stories, and these stories – and anything else in experience – is happening here now, including the story of a here and now. In immediacy, age only exists within a story, as does past, future and present.

All of this can be just a fun exploration, or a run-through of predictable and well-known set of stories. As usual, it gets juicy only when I explore it further.

For all the stories of an age between 0 and 13.7 billion years old, I can I see, feel and find appreciation for each one. I can see it – with specific and detailed examples. I can feel it – take time for it to sink in, allowing it to reorganize my view and sense of me. And I can find a natural appreciation for it – awe, humility, gratitude.

For the last story, about all happening here now, I can use it as a pointer for inquiry, for exploring it in immediacy.

This is an exploration of what happens when these stories are used as tools. What happens when I use them in my own life? What happens when we use them collectively, through a combination of science, art, music, new and always evolving myths, and contemporary and fun rituals?

……………
……………

– better organization….
— age since birth
— subjective age
— this body + food
— culture
— evolution of Earth
— habits of this universe

……

– age, depends on how we look at it – many different answers, each one valid and meaningful
— for myself, find joy in exploring each one – to see, feel, appreciate the validity of each one (see – in detail, with specific examples, feel – allow to sink in, appreciate – awe, gratitude)
— also, explore how to use each one in most helpful way (as a practical tool at individual/collective levels)

– depends on what we look at + how we look at it
– depends on where we put the imagined boundaries

…………….

My birthday is coming up, and some folks asked how old I am.

I know what info they are looking for, and it may seem silly or overly clever to answer the question another way, but is that really true?

There is of course a certain number of years since this particular organism was born. And in our individualistic culture, this is what people most often mean when asking the question. We all know it wasn’t really this organism that was born back then, since all the cells have been replaced several times and the patterns and forms have changed quite substantially as well, but we gloss that over to make it simpler for ourselves.

And yet, there are other ways of answering the question that are equally true, and equally or more meaningful, when we take the time let it sink in.

As mentioned above, it is equally true to say somewhere between a few weeks and a decade old, referring to the age of the cells in this body.

Or to say I feel 20 years old or 80 years old or whatever it may be. (Our own experience of our age.)

Or my favorite, 13.7 billion years old.

Or,

……………

– our age
— up to 10 years (cell replacement)
— length since birth of organism
— 13.7 billion years
— molecules
— patterns, processes, dynamics
— all content of experience, 13.7 b. – including “inside” (sensations, emotions, thoughts etc.) and “outside” (wider world)
— no age – all here now

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