Perishable Goods

Am I a perishable good? Or am I an imperishable and eternal soul? Maybe I can peel the husk of my body through its many layers, down to the ripe core, and find out...

It may be that the ripe core turns out to be no-thing. I am ever-changing, dissolving, replacing my cells and atoms year after year, breath after breath, heartbeat after heartbeat?

Yet at another layer of the perishable, I may be made of imperishable protons forged in a star, atoms born at the dawn of creation in a gaseous embryonic nebula. Though fleeting, I am ancient. I am the ancestor of the sun and moon.

Or it may turn out that the very substance of creation is paradox. For when I look deep into the nucleus of a single atom, into the quark whose tremulous architecture forms the crazy house called a proton, I discover that this atavistic structure is only an idea, a blueprint in the mind of the architect. The actual energy of the quark consists in ephemeral waves of emptiness.

The essence of matter is a quantum vacuum, whose stuffing is vibration, fluctuations of pure mathematical possibility. Even my bones are composed of probability-waves, abstract curves that never quite touch the asymptote of intellectual form. In the words of founding quantum physicist, Sir Arthur Eddington, "The stuff of the world is mind-stuff.” And in the words of his fellow physicist, Sir James Jeans, "The universe begins to look more like a great thought than like a machine."

So I seek to know myself, and peer through evanescent veils. My outer husk appears to be a physical body. But at a finer level of resolution, I am a clustering ocean of impermanence, without any material essence. Then I focus at yet a finer layer and behold!, my ever-perishing energy is granulated into chthonic ancestral particles, ancient as God. Finally I resolve to peer through the finest veil of all, and find that even these particles are tremors of the void.

In the view of contemporary astrophysics, the ancient Heart Sutra of the Buddha remains precisely accurate: "Form is emptiness, emptiness is form." Perhaps, after all, the dizziness of pure wonder is my only substance, my very breath.

I am indeed no-thing, with no seed, no center, no name at my core. Now tell me, mystic... tell me, scientist... tell me, friend... am I someone or no one? Am I everyone? Am I eternal? Or unborn?

Of course the answer is yes. I am all of the above. The answer is no. I am none of the above. It's my choice. Freedom is indeterminate.

'Onions and Garlic' by Arnoud Wydeveld

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