To the extinct, the lost and the forgotten. Everything that comes together is destined to fall apart.– Yuval Noah Harari in the foreword to Spaiens, the Spanish graphic novel version
Everything that comes together falls apart.
It’s good to remember.
It helps us appreciate what’s here even more. Anything in my life now, and anything in my direct experience, is a guest. It all comes and goes. And it will never be here in the same way again.
It can also help us find more peace with all that inevitably falls apart, which is everything. Everything and everyone we know will fall apart. All of what we know will be forgotten.
THE GREAT CLEANSER
Impermanence is the great cleanser.
Existence takes a certain form, and then another, and everything that went before is gone.
At most, it exists for a while in our imagination, but that will eventually be gone too. Impermanence wipes the slate clean to allow itself to take new forms.
Without death, there cannot be new life. Without the death of individuals, there would not be room for new individuals. Without the death of species, there would not be room for new species. Without the death of stars, none of what we know would be here. (Apart from stars and space.) Without the death of this moment, there would be no new moment.
HAPPENING HERE AND NOW
We can find impermanence in stories, as described above. We know from our life, history, and science that everything changes.
And we can also find impermanence in our immediate noticing, or at least in a combination of our immediate noticing and our mental representations.
What’s here is here. I can find the previous moment in my mental images and stories. And I notice that what’s here is different from what happened previously.
What’s here is here. What’s here is always fresh and new. It’s never been here before. It will never be here again. It’s different in kind from any idea about past or future since those are ideas. (1)
POINTING TO MY NATURE
Impermanence points to my more fundamental nature.
I assume that’s why impermanence is such a focus in Buddhism. It’s not just to help us appreciate what’s here or psychologically prepare for all falling apart, which is valuable in itself. It helps us find what we more fundamentally are.
Apart from some types of inquiry, basic meditation may be the most direct and effective way to explore impermanence.
We notice and allow what’s here. (We fail. And notice that what’s here in our field of experience is already noticed and allowed.)
Over time, we notice that any and all content of experience comes and goes, including whatever we assume we are. Everything related to this human self comes and goes in experience. Everything related to anything we can take ourselves to be – a doer, an observer, etc. – comes and goes in experience.
I cannot most fundamentally be any of that since all of it comes and goes in experience. Anything within the content of experience comes and goes.
We have discovered what we are not, and out of habit we may still look for what we are within the content of experience. Finding what we more fundamentally are requires a figure-ground shift. And this can be guided by some forms of inquiry. (Headless experiments, the Big Mind process, and so on.)
I find I more fundamentally am (what a thought may call) capacity. I am capacity for the whole field of experience. I am what the field of experience happens within and as.
And any ideas of that happens within the content of experience, come and go, and is not what I more fundamentally am.
(1) Really… What’s here is here. Anything else is a mental image. I cannot find the past or future outside of my mental representations. I cannot even find the idea of “present” outside of my mental representations.
I cannot find impermanence in my immediate noticing. I can only find when I compare my mental representations of what’s here with my mental images of what was just here. And that’s often very helpful. It gives us a more visceral sense of impermanence and that it’s ongoing.Read More