Wednesday, December 21, 2011

On Death and the Cosmic Scale

The night that Mama died, Ciera and I had a long conversation about death. What does death mean? Of course we are not the deepest philosophers on the subject and we are far from the first but we thought we would tackle it.

Here's my take. A living and a dead body in the universe are little different. On an atomic level all of the matter or energy is retained. It is never lost; it just goes someplace else. From a cosmic perspective there is no passage into another realm. The very act of dying is seen as little more than a transition of the body into a state of accelerated entropy.

I was walking down a street near the apartment and I was struck by a thought. I saw before me a small landscaping boulder and a brilliant orange maple tree. The two objects were there. They had, in my mind at the time, such an overwhelming and determined physical form that I was struck by the thought that nothing in this universe can actually leave it. The boulder is just as much here as the maple tree. Both are distinctly different but at the most basic level they are indisputably unable to exit this dimension.

So the information of our lifetimes must somehow also be retained. And only with the passage of life into death and all things into entropy, does that information slowly fade.

On a cosmic scale we remain meaningless. A comet could kill us in an instant. A supernova could incinerate the earth. The entire planet earth could be transformed into a lifeless ball in an instant. And aliens on a distant planet 13 billion light-years away would not care or know. Even if they could somehow see it, by the time the information reached their world, it would have happened so far in the past as to be meaningless.

Cosmic scales are bad for making us feel like our actions have value. I do what I can for those around me. I am still an animal and I believe that I can make this macro-environment called Earth more habitable for all the organisms around me. I will endeavor to do so at least.

I was walking to work today and I thought about what death would feel like. It is probably the least painful and most wonderful thing. The brain is known to shoot off a cacophony of signals at the point of death; one last hurrah if you will. If I were to die, I suspect it would be like sleep. I never quite know when I fell asleep but when I wake up I know that I had slept. Death must be that dreamless slumber that does nothing but please us.