Take a breath and let the moment pass. There is another one coming.
Life as we know it is temporary. The earth has been in and remains in a constant state of change. At the time that the earth and moon were formed, some 4.5 billion years ago, a day on earth was only 4 hours long. The moon was only 25,000 miles away, and the tidal forces on the earth were huge.
As the moon moved away from the earth, the days grew longer, the tidal forces decreased and the surface of the earth received more sunlight in a longer day.
The moon is now 238,000 miles away. The moon will continue to move away from the earth over time, at the rate of about 3.5 cm a year. The sun will continue to look about the same for a few billion years before it blows up into a red giant star, consuming all of the inner planets.
But this moment in time…it is all we have to live for now. And we have no idea just how lucky we are to be here.
Had there been no collision between the earth and another body about the size of Mars, there would be no moon and perhaps no life. The days might be much shorter now. The axis of rotation might shift wildly over geological time, precluding the stable environment needed for the complexity of life to we have now, to emerge.
We are a result of a state of constant change.
Yet, so many people seek permanence. Some people think that American exceptionalism should be made permanent. Some people think that their wealth should be permanent, handed down from generation to generation. Some people want to go to heaven, to exist in a constant state of joy, forever. Some people want to sit in front of their TV all day, hoping that nothing will change. Some people wish to be buried in a mausoleum after death, in a quest for permanence. John Lennon once sang a song, Across the Universe. The chorus? “Nothing’s gonna change my world.”
There is something about the mausoleums that I’ve seen. They are built mostly of stone. They are made to be permanent. They are made to resist change. The sunlight shines through the stained glass windows, tracking an image across the floor, onto the wall, day after day, after day. But nothing that man has ever made has been able to resist the constant state of change in the world. Even mausoleums require maintenance.
Sure, we can find artifacts from ancient civilizations. Like the Great Pyramids of Egypt, each one a giant mausoleum for a royal family. Their interior walls tell a story of a wish for the afterlife. The artifacts, the gold masks, the mummification of the bodies inside, all tell us of a wish for a permanent place in the afterlife. As if immortality was a thing. But all of that came about from change. Everything we touch came about from change.
The pyramids themselves seem permanent to us for we have such a short lifetime relative to them. And they will remain there for thousands of years more. But over geological time, nature will have their way with the pyramids. Eventually, as the tectonic plates move about the earth, the crust upon which the pyramids sit, will be subducted under another plate, and the pyramids will go with them. More likely though, the pyramids will be ground into dust by the weather long before succumbing to the subduction of the crust that supports them.
The motion of the tectonic plates arises from the heat in the core of the earth. The heaviest elements are down there, in the core, where they work like a giant nuclear reactor. Nuclear fission is what drives the currents of molten metal in the core and the mantle, and the crust floats on the mantle like a boat floats on water.
It has been estimated that it will be 91 billion years before the core will turn solid. That will give earth plenty of time to recycle everything on the surface through plate subduction. There is nothing on the surface that will survive that process. *Everything* will be recycled a few times more until tectonic motion stops in about a billion years.
Looking further down the road, much, much further, we project the end of the universe some 10¹³⁹ years from now. That is an unimaginably long period of time. A rough calculation suggests that “it’s more than the amount of time it would take to count every atom in the universe if you had to wait from the Big Bang until now in between counting each atom”. according to Gizmodo. Our tiny little brains are just not capable of comprehending how long that is. A million years might as well be “forever” for us, let alone 10¹³⁹ years.
And what awaits us there, at the end of the universe? Heat death. That’s when every last erg contained in the universe has been expended to the point where there is no other free energy left in the universe. At that point in time, there will be no more energy for anything else to happen. I wonder what happens to time then. Surely, we’re not living our lives for that, are we?
If that’s the end of the universe, then is there any meaning to be found? Instead of looking for meaning in life, I think that the best thing to do is to just find a way to live in peace with our brothers and sisters. Find a way to make someone’s day a better day. Remind ourselves that a bad day is not even remotely close to “forever”, and that there is nothing personal about a bad day.
And for those people who are looking for permanence, would you really want to live forever? Wouldn’t you like to know that at some point, you can stop thinking, stop worrying, stop even having joy and just rest? Ever watch a toddler have a good day, only to become cranky by early afternoon? Yeah, that’s because it takes energy for everything, even to have fun. And when blood sugar is low, decision fatigue sets in, and things go south in a hurry. That’s what forever is like.
So I’m not sure that I want permanence. I know that my time here, on this plane, and perhaps any other plane is limited, and I’m OK with that. The past is gone. The future is not here yet. And the present is all that I really have right now, regardless of all of the friends, possessions, and experiences I’ve had in my life. I don’t count my blessings, for counting them only makes them the lesser. I just enjoy the moment for what it is and let it pass.