I want to feel hopeful, but sometimes are easier than others. I unapologetically wish that I’d have faith in “something more” than this life, as much as I love living it. I wish to truly believe that there is a God, because among many other reasons, it would be nice to have someone to thank to for my life, for my family, and for all the circumstances that led me to where I am now, as well as for the directions that my upcoming adventures will—hopefully—take.
I know that I am not special in this regard, since I believe that this is an essential characteristic of the human condition. Then again, I can (and I will) only speak for myself, because I barely know what I am thinking, let alone the thoughts in anyone else’s mind…
In a previous post I talked in a more detailed way about my spiritual tendencies and some of the things (good, bad, and ugly) that have influenced such tendencies over the years, but in a nutshell, I consider myself a *very* hopeful agnostic whose frame of mind shifts between the following three states:
Sometimes I am ABSOLUTELY SURE that there is a God.
Sometimes I am ABSOLUTELY SURE that there is not.
Most of the time, I have no idea what to think.
I used to feel quite guilty (can you tell that I was raised Roman Catholic?) of feeling like this, but not anymore. I still wish things would be different, but I no longer—well, fewer times anyway—think that God is mad at me because of the way I feel. I know, this is not theologically sound, but I do not have the training or the inclination of seeing things theologically. You see, as the saying goes, if we think we have defined what God is, the only thing we have accomplished is that we would not talking about God anymore, since the infinite cannot be finitely explained. I hope I am making some sense here…
Again, I am no theologian, but I am a scientist, and I know of many facts that apply to biological life. Undeniable facts that although majestic (just as an example, think biodiversity), leave me at a loss to even trying to imagine how things can possibly be with God “up there”.
I know that I am made out of atoms and molecules, of this I have not the tiniest doubt. Alas, I am not a random cluster of atoms. What constitutes the proverbial “I” (whatever this is) is a direct consequence of a precise arrangement of such atoms and how they relate to each other. Moreover, I also know that this arrangement of matter is a direct product of biological evolution. Another fundamental characteristic of my physical self is that as far as I (or anyone) can tell, what constitutes my “I” changes constantly, and there is every reason and evidence to think that this is true. This is an idea that has been around since at least 1954, when the biophysicist P.C. Aebersol estimated that each year close to 98 % of the atoms in a human body are replaced as part of normal autopoietic processes (for a great website that explores the physical aspects of this questions go here.).
The thing is, if my brain makes my mind, and my current brain is not my previous brain at the atomic level, what or who, am I? Well, in the words of the famous physicist Richard Feynman:
“The atoms that are in the brain are being replaced; the ones that were there before have gone away. So what is this mind of ours: what are these atoms associated with consciousness? Last week’s potatoes! They now can remember what was going on in my mind a year ago—a mind which has long ago been replaced. The think I call individuality is only a pattern or dance, that is what it means when one discovers how long it takes for the atoms of the brain to be replaced by other atoms.”
There is no actual, permanent, physical “me“. The baby who I was, the child who I was, the teenager who I was, the young man who I was, are literally, no more. It seems that I am a pattern, that I am information. This frightens me. Am I destined to fade like the letters in an old book, forever lost into oblivion? Is this how my story ends?
Please note that I am not even contemplating too closely the possibility that if this is true my wife and my children will share the same fate. Indeed, because of how I feel about them, I can barely bear to write this sentence… And, what about my dad?
But I think that there is reason for hope. In fact, I feel *very* hopeful, and in a great day, I feel even happy! You see, for the last couple of days I have been thinking about this idea:
What if God remembers?
What if God, the true infinite God, will remember who all of us are?
Is this what the scriptures from virtually every religious persuasion refer to in the multiple instances when they say that God will “remember”?
Will God remember us is and reconstitute who we are, atom by atom?
Will our consciousness wake up one day in this way?
Is this how we will continue to be?
Is this how God will do it?
Is this the divine’s ultimate gift to us?
So many questions!
I want to believe this, I want to believe that God will remember my loved ones, and perhaps… me.
I am hopeful.
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