My birthday is coming up (again!) later this month, and I get curious about my age again.
I first notice that here and now, in immediacy, there is timelessness. Whatever happens in the sense fields happen within timelessness, and that includes any thoughts about past, future and present. Those are all labels. Interpretations. Ways to organize and make sense of what’s happening in the sense fields.
Among those stories of time, I find the most basic one is the story of time itself. A story saying there is a time line with past, future and present. This one helps place events where they seem to belong, and this helps me – as a human being in the world – to function and operate. It is not a flawless system (I edit and even make up memories of the past, and sometimes actually believe my own stories about time and what happened, happens, and will happen), but it generally works pretty well. It’s functional.
One of these stories of time says I was born so and so many years ago. It’s the story that’s reflected in my passport and birth certificate, and what most people in my culture use for themselves and when they think about how old I am.
Another of these stories is the deep time story. This universe was “born” about 13.7 billion years ago, and that’s how old I am. Again, in our culture, this doesn’t quite make sense. I am a human being, not the universe. But it actually makes a great deal of sense from another perspective. Everything I am, as this human being, is quite literally 13.7 billion years old. It is the product of the 13.7 billion year old evolution of this universe.
Everything I take myself to be, as a human in the world, is part of this 13.7 billion year evolution. My body is made up of matter and particles formed in the early ages of the universe and in three or fourth generation stars. The way this body is put together and functions is the product of the evolution of all my ancestors, which is part of the evolution of the earth, which in turn is part of the evolution of this universe. And the same goes for how my psyche works. I cannot find anything here that cannot be traced back to the beginning of the universe.
I am one of the ways the universe experiences itself, just as all beings are. I am a product of 13.7 billion years of evolution of the universe, just as anything else in existence right now.
I am, quite literally, 13.7 billion years old. It’s not just a fancy way of saying it. It is the literal – and limited – truth, within our current scientific worldview.
Why is this important? It is important because this is one of the many ways we can experience – throughout all of what we are – that we belong to the universe. That we are all in the same boat. It gives us a much deeper time perspective to guide our choices and actions here and now.