[FutureBuddha (57)] ZEN at the END of TIME (PART I)

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  • Jundo
    Treeleaf Founder and Priest
    • Apr 2006
    • 39237

    [FutureBuddha (57)] ZEN at the END of TIME (PART I)




    A monk asked of Master Dasui, "When the great fire rages at the end of all ages,
    and the whole universe is destroyed, will this be destroyed or not?"
    Dasui responded, "Destroyed."
    The monk then asked, "Then this will be gone with that?"
    Dasui responded, "This is gone with that."

    The monk then asked of Master Longji, " When the great fire rages at the end of all ages,
    and the whole universe is destroyed, will this be destroyed or not?"
    Longji responded, "Not destroyed."
    The monk then asked, "Why is this not destroyed?"
    Longji , "Because just the same as the universe."

    Simplest life first appeared on Earth some 4 billion years ago; now here we sit some 4 billion years later. By astronomers’ estimates, our sun’s expanding size and heat may render Earth unlivable just 4 billion years from now. Thus, our present era exists right at the mid-point, between life’s start and its possible end on Earth. Some extremophiles, such as hardy bacteria and insects, may thrive in the heat, but larger and more fragile creatures (such as us, with bodies like these, and many other creatures we depend on) will have a hell of a time surviving. Perhaps we might get by for a while, in special shelters, suits, engineered bodies or deep underground. Even then, in a few more billion years, the whole Earth and much of the solar system will be a cinder.

    Hopefully, we … or, more specifically, our successors … will have moved on by then, to somewhere at a safe distance, to witness the final throes of our planet. They can take the whole of Earth’s culture in memory banks, recreating the Pyramids and Louve from stored data should they wish. Or, we may gracefully just let it happen, not running away, our time voluntarily allowed to be over. That would be fine too. Future life forms, if truly heeding the Zen message that we should live in the time of life, and embrace death in the time of death, may not run from the end in the same way we do.

    In any case, by then, evolution will have gone on twice as long as until now, meaning that any species existing at the time to see these events (assuming “see” is the right word) will be as far removed from us as we are from plankton. What’s more, future evolution will have moved so much faster, untold times faster, than now and in the past. ‘Evo-engineering’ will have long supplemented the slow, meandering, “hit or miss” processes of Darwin. Who, or what, will our successor life form(s) be then?

    The ancient Buddhists envisioned a hot, fiery end to the cosmos, although perhaps but one cycle in endless cycles which come and go. Buddhism sometimes speaks about universes which are great chiliocosms in size, thousands upon thousands of world systems, which expand and contract in long mahākalpa spans of billions of years. In thinking of time and space, the ancient Buddhists were way ahead of their time. The old Zen Koan that leads this chapter, about “destroyed” or “not destroyed,” expresses the insight that, whatever comes and goes with our universe’s final going, it will go together with all the stuff of this universe that someday goes and disappears, while strangely, some essential aspect will not go anywhere.

    Whether a hot death or, as most astrophysicists predict, a cold death, the basic principle is the same: There is a sense in the Koan that, at the end of time and the destruction of the universe, as the very last stars either burn up or frigidly fade away, whatever is underlying everything will also burn or fade with them … yet somehow not. Somehow time and all things have come from the timeless and nothing, and back they will go. Yet that source remains. In fact, things have never really come or left, as each and all are the source now!

    Zen folks love paradoxes like that.

    Whatever the case, the whole universe, which began some 14 billion years ago, is expected to peter out a few trillions of years from now. We have no idea what will come “afterwards,” not any more than we understand what came “before” the Big Bang, assuming that “after” and “before” are even the right words. If there is no “stuff” remaining, not even one clock or clock watcher, then who or what is still around to measure “time?”

    Perhaps, as proposed by Pierre Teilhard de Chardin and others, the universe is building toward a ‘telos’ or ‘Omega Point’ of consciousness or the like, with this world a kind of egg where the cosmic chick is gestating, preparing to hatch. It is a nice suggestion, and would make you and me and other sentient life stepping stones to that end. It certainly seems that the universe has moved from lifelessness to life, then complex and intelligent life, and is far from stopping.

    But in the meantime, that’s all still a long way off. For us “live in the present moment” Zen Buddhists, it is really not much of a concern.

    Thus, let’s leave aside the end of time for a time, and instead focus some more on what may happen to the world in the intervening time.

    For one thing, I suspect that we will remain explorers: We will continue to send our metal emissaries to other nearby worlds and even on to other suns. We already have, for the Voyager spacecraft has now departed our solar system, bound for ‘Buddha knows where.’ I very much think that we humans won’t go ourselves, apart from relatively easier and shorter journeys. Metallic contraptions are just better at space travel than flesh bodies are, as they do not require air or food, entertainment or sleep on the long, cold trips. They need little fuel once set to drifting, and might even tap deep space energy from quantum fluctuations or cosmic waves. A human back in Florida, controlling a semi-autonomous VR-avatar on Mars, would be able to do tasks and experience life there as if present in person … adjusting for the several minutes of signal delay. However, absent some law breaking speed-of-light breakthrough, that won’t be the case for farther communication, where timelag is measured in light-years.

    Of course, we may alter our human bodies enough, and build ships and suits powerful enough, that we become better suited as space travelers. But unless we radically evolve to some very different form, one that can thrive in a freezing and irradiated void over millions of miles, the basic problem will remain. It is doubtful that complex life forms could develop bodies as resilient as tardigrades, for example, and even they have their limits, need food and air with time. Of course, it is possible that the “biological” will so smoothly meld with the “mechanical,” the computerized, and the genetically enhanced that there will be no clear line where astronaut ends and spaceship begins. Nonetheless, the more “flesh and blood” is the vehicle, rather than carbon and hardened steel, seemingly the more fragile it would be.

    As one possible plan, multi-generational ships could allow our children to endure the long years and perils of travel outside our solar system. That might be an option if, for example, the sun expands or we ourselves destroy our planet whereby, like survivors of a sinking ship, we board the life boats. We may send our genetic descendants off to diverse galactic corners, all to try their luck again. Such ships would need to be spacious, and grow their own food, if passengers will actually have a life. Something like the Buddhist Precepts would be especially important then, given that people together, in very tight quarters for hundreds of years, should especially avoid anger, jealousy, back-stabbing deceit, selfish hoarding and whatever other harmful behavior may have ruined Earth in the first place. Of course, passengers could be kept in suspension, hibernating in tiny compartments while I.V. fed, totally unconscious or with simulated lives playing in their heads. That would solve a few problems of logistics. Still, I would ask: why bother to send whole bodies?

    A much better solution would be a fleet of astro-arks filled with eggs and sperm only, or freeze dried stem cells and genetic code. In fact, because eggs, sperm and stem cells are still too fragile for such long journeys, they could be bio-printed on site, upon arrival, from amino acids and DNA code strings recorded in memory. What's more, as amino acids might be broken down by cosmic rays and high temperatures during transit, merely the raw ingredients of ammonia, water, methane, hydrogen and a little more (much of it sourced locally upon arrival) could enable manufacture of even those building blocks. The mission would be accompanied by blueprints for robot nannies, AI teachers, and libraries of data-banks holding the entirety of earthly knowledge and culture. This pan-spermic parade seeking new panaceas would attempt to reconstitute civilization after finding safe places to land, like seeds scattered to the wind. Upon arriving on an empty, resource rich world (we should try to avoid places already inhabited with natives, learning from Earth’s sad past), onboard 3-D printers would turn out the robotic wet nurses and construction crews which, in turn, would set to birthing, nursing, farming, mining, forging, welding and building settlements, with residences, schools, medical facilities and whatever else a society needs. The test tube babies would be educated, society reconstituted, with civilization resumed in its now locale. Yes, our fertilized fleet, a fecund caravan, will head in many directions, not placing all our eggs in one basket.

    The genetic donors will stay behind on Earth, moving underground as the surface of the planet grows hotter, more polluted, radiated or otherwise uninhabitable. They will never know if any of their seedlings survived.

    Even before such a “Hail Mary Pass” through space [FOOTNOTE: A very long forward pass in American football, usually made in desperation with small chance of success.], if humankind does seek contact with very distant places, it is likely that our first emissaries will be independently operating machines, due not only to a mechanical probe’s resilience to years of travel and relative simplicity of design, but because the great distances would make fast communication with Earth impossible. Thus, self-determining machines are needed which can operate free of control from home. They may be tossed out into the cosmos, like messages in bottles, with instructions to search for Earth-like planets sustaining possible advanced life. Why? Perhaps just because we wish to say hello.

    Then what if we found life, and especially, intelligent life?

    If we did leave the solar system, able to reach other stars and inhabited worlds, attitude is everything: Would we go as ‘Cosmic Columbuses,’ colonizing conquistadors, Milky Way marauders, space invaders emulating so many sad times in Earth history, or as trustworthy friends and good ambassadors? We certainly don’t want to anger anyone, especially if they are substantially more advanced than us! They could turn around and conquer us instead!

    If we do colonize, multiply and spread, establishing bases here and there, our progeny (whether genetic or purely mechanical) could expand exponentially across planets, then across whole solar systems and beyond, acting much as our settler ancestors did in the Americas. Colonists might replicate (if artificial) or reproduce (if biological) in ever increasing compounded numbers, seeking ever more resources and real estate, spreading like viruses, taking what is not given, killing any opponents in their way, immoral, violent, and driven by their own needs and desires. That’s what we humans did in the past, with a sense of Manifest Destiny. It could be a metallic locust infestation, a pest, a planet consuming plague upon the galaxy started by us.

    That is why our inculcating the values of the Buddhist Precepts within our astro-ambassadors’ electronic or carbon-based brains is vital for keeping the missions wholesome, guiding those crossing the stars 2000 years from now, just as they once guided Buddhists crossing the Asian Silk Road 2000 years past. Our messengers should avoid killing, taking what is not given, or otherwise interfering in any way with extra-terrestrial species who might not invite a visit to their worlds. No need to go where not wanted! Let’s leave alone those who are insufficiently developed, tip toe around others who might be an obvious danger to us or just not friendly, and accept that our overtures may sometimes be rejected. Hyper-advanced societies might not be interested in conversation with us, or even notice us, any more than we would care to chat with a fly in our room. The heavens are plenty big, with countless barren and uninhabited planets and moons for us to claim and terra-form should we wish, thus no need to step on anybody else’s toes (assuming “toes” defines what they have.)

    It is possible that some religions will seek to proselytize the planets. Alas, I am sure that some church folks will seek to do just that, as they always have crossing earthly continents and seas, on a new galactic crusade to “save souls” throughout the stars. However, for our part, we Buddhists should avoid acting as pushy, interstellar ‘Sutra thumpers,’ missionaries on a rocket mission, trying to convert the whole universe to our personal beliefs about the universe. Instead, our newly formed prajNASA space agency must send Buddhist missives that speak and act in ways that impress others with our gentleness and good nature (perhaps a big yellow smiley face can be painted on the vehicles’ front … although, in some distant culture, that might be mistaken for a sign of war). If our contacts are sufficiently impressed with our goodness and respectful intent, perhaps they will become interested in Buddhism without our overtly trying.

    Or, as often happens when Buddhism meets new cultures, keeping an open mind, we might encounter their religion: Let’s call it “Flixtism,” the teachings of the Prophet Flixt. Then, Buddhism and Flixtism might eventually merge into some Fluddhist hybrid, just as Buddhism absorbed elements of Hinduism, Bon, Confucianism, Shinto and Daoism, spawning Jewish-Buddhist ‘Jubus’ and Christian Zennies, in its spread across Earth. Just like today, we’ll soon forget where one religion begins and the other ends, with Flixtist deities tossed into the Buddhist pantheon along with all the rest.

    Our first metal messengers likely will be quite simple, missives of greeting, with information about us, and little more (hopefully not anything that will make us attractive to those without friendly intent.) However, someday, wandering ‘Bodhisatt-alites’ may sail from world to world, helping sentient beings of all kinds to better experience peace, joy, and equanimity (assuming, of course, that those emotions make sense to other species.) If encountering suffering anywhere in the cosmos, our envoys would strive to teach the ignorant and feed the hungry, comfort the lonely, and nurse the sick and dying … sickness, ignorance, hunger, loneliness and death probably to be found in many places in the universe, in some form or another, biology being what it is. Somewhere there is a creature with a broken heart, or hearts, or other equivalent organ. If we are requested, we might explain and demonstrate something about Buddhism (in terms understandable to the indigenous creatures), adapting the Lotus Posture to whatever appendages, jelly trails or wheels a species has. Without imposing ourselves and our culture, we can act as emissaries of harmony among space races, as trusted mediators of planetary disputes, explorers seeking knowledge alone, respectful of others who are close encountered. Yes. basically, I’m talking about Star Trek with a Dharmic twist: Dhar Trek.

    But, really, why go anywhere?

    ( ... to be continued ... )



    Gassho, J

    stlah

    tsuku.jpgtsuku.jpg
    Last edited by Jundo; 10-03-2023, 02:34 PM.
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE
  • Kaitan
    Member
    • Mar 2023
    • 442

    #2
    I'm looking forward to read your book, Jundo!

    I haven't seen something like this in sci-fi movies or books, interesting...
    because eggs, sperm and stem cells are still too fragile for such long journeys, they could be bio-printed on site, upon arrival, from amino acids and DNA code strings recorded in memory.
    It could go even further, since amino acids could be cracked down by cosmic rays or high temperatures. Therefore, amonia, water, methane, hydrogen are just enough to start the bulding blocks of biological life.



    I loved the prajNASA and Fluddhist terms

    Gassho

    ST

    Bernal
    Last edited by Kaitan; 10-03-2023, 01:41 PM.
    Kaitan - 界探 - Realm searcher
    Formerly known as "Bernal"

    Comment

    • Jundo
      Treeleaf Founder and Priest
      • Apr 2006
      • 39237

      #3
      Originally posted by nalber3
      I'm looking forward to read your book, Jundo!

      I haven't seen something like this in sci-fi movies or books, interesting...


      It could go even further, since amino acids could be cracked down by cosmic rays or high temperatures. Therefore, amonia, water, methane, hydrogen are just enough to start the bulding blocks of biological life.



      I loved the prajNASA and Fluddhist terms

      Gassho

      ST

      Bernal
      Bernal, if I may, I am going to add that as a sentence in the book.

      A much better solution would be a fleet of astro-arks filled with eggs and sperm only, or freeze dried stem cells and genetic code. In fact, because eggs, sperm and stem cells are still too fragile for such long journeys, they could be bio-printed on site, upon arrival, from amino acids and DNA code strings recorded in memory. What's more, as amino acids might be broken down by cosmic rays and high temperatures during transit, merely the raw ingredients of ammonia, water, methane, hydrogen and a little more (much of it sourced locally upon arrival) could enable manufacture of even those building blocks. The mission would be accompanied by blueprints for robot nannies, AI teachers, and libraries of data-banks holding the entirety of earthly knowledge and culture. This pan-spermic parade seeking new panaceas would attempt to reconstitute civilization after finding safe places to land, like seeds scattered to the wind. Upon arriving on an empty, resource rich world (we should try to avoid places already inhabited with natives, learning from Earth’s sad past), onboard 3-D printers would turn out the robotic wet nurses and construction crews which, in turn, would set to birthing, nursing, farming, mining, forging, welding and building settlements, with residences, schools, medical facilities and whatever else a society needs. The test tube babies would be educated, society reconstituted, with civilization resumed in its now locale. Yes, our fertilized fleet, a fecund caravan, will head in many directions, not placing all our eggs in one basket.
      Gassho, Jundo
      ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

      Comment

      • Kaitan
        Member
        • Mar 2023
        • 442

        #4


        ST/Bernal
        Kaitan - 界探 - Realm searcher
        Formerly known as "Bernal"

        Comment

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