What is the earliest memory you can recall? Your experience weeks ago seems clear. So does years ago, even decades ago. Digging into it as early as possible, can you reach the earliest one in your life? Usually, that is the inception of your consciousness.
I can barely recall one cloudy afternoon, walking with my father. Probably, I was around three years old. Suddenly, we heard the sounds of lightning. And large raindrops touched my cheeks. “Let’s go home!” My father carried me on his back and ran. I was on his back, feeling safe and yet worried, hearing the scary sounds approaching.
How about when we are a newborn baby? We don’t remember anything.
It is impossible to recall our experience when we were a newborn baby. But then, a series of interactions with our parents and the people around us should be part of our experience unconsciously.
We experienced many things as a baby. Only our consciousness can’t recall them.
My earliest memory is only at the age of three. If so, my “conscious” life only started at that age. Is that so?
How about the moment of sleeping? We are unconscious during sleep except for dreaming. We are almost like a baby. On average, we sleep eight hours a day, one-third of the day. So, we are “unconscious” for nearly one-third of our entire lifetime.
If you live until the age of ninety, then it seems you live only for thirty years consciously. Is that so?
Our common sense tells us that our life should be on our physical existence. The date engraved on the tomb, such as 1879-1955, should be on one’s physical presence in this world.
Life is short. Our physical existence is around eighty years. If you are lucky, it could be one hundred years. What should we do?
Biologists tell us that our efforts go for reproduction. The goal is not extending our physical presence but carrying over our genes, more collectively continuing the human species.
That is why our primary duty is to form and develop a set of family, tribe, community, society, and civilization. Traditions are also part of the critical components. Religions also put this duty as part of the essential teachings.
So does other species. All sentient beings in this world have ways of maintaining their species.
According to Yuval Noah Harari, in his book Homo Sapiens, the agricultural revolution is not only for us human species but even for those crops to be prosperous utilizing human labor. Agriculture could be even their “civilization” as well. We work for them.
Physical life is primarily for the preservation of each species. In our case for the human species. We live and die for our species to live “forever.” So does the strategy of any other sentient beings.
Life seems even much shorter if we see our lives from conscious beings’ perspectives in this world.
As mentioned above, one’s life barely starts from the age of around three. Excluding the moment of sleep, it becomes only one-third. What would be our efforts?
One is the pursuit of “greatness.” Like many historical figures, we remember them well. They still “live” in this world with us. Even they passed away many years ago, we always learn from them. We communicate with them through the masterpieces they left for us. That could also be one way to develop our civilizations to maintain our human species.
The other is the pursuit of “quality of life.” It is the effort of living comfortably longer with making our physical and mental health intact. Modern anti-aging should be in this category.
In this twenty-first century, we have achieved unprecedented longevity. On average, our lifespan can be around eighty years. If we are lucky, it could be almost one hundred years. For the first time in human history, we have overcome at least the first two of the following critical challenges we have ever faced.
- Infectious diseases
Because of both agricultural and industrial (including 4.0) revolutions, our civilizations have dramatically transformed the way of our lives. While there are still many issues, we no longer starve in the way our ancestors did. We have the systems to develop and distribute vaccines, which was also unimaginable centuries ago.
Now, everyone’s focus is on the issue of aging. Is aging inevitable? Is it natural? The latest medical findings suggest that we could treat aging as a curable disease.
For example, according to David Andrew Sinclair, in his book, Lifespan, aging is “curable,” at least to some extent. In doing so, we can tackle all aging-related diseases such as cancer, stroke, dementia at their “roots,” which is aging.
If aging is on damages through the DNA duplications, the cause should be on their physical vehicles alone. On the other hand, the DNA duplication mechanism is “digital” as the combinations of four elements, which are not material. The author called it “the information theory of aging.” Aging is, in principle, “digital-copying.” Just like copying a file from one to another.
It sounds like science fiction. Yuval Noah Harari also pointed out the same area in his book, Homo Deus. The way we overcome the third challenge, aging, would be more for transhuman and cloning efforts. We can digitally preserve the “information” about who we are so that we could transcend the limitation of our physical vehicles.
Is that so? Does it contradict the collective conservation of the human species? I don’t know.
If our consciousness is a set of information that can preserve and copy itself digitally without any damages, then theoretically, it can live “forever.”
Selfless, Timeless, and Spaceless Being
Let’s go back to a story of our earliest memory. Usually, only the “direct evidence” that we are alive as who we are could be on our self-consciousness.
For example, I subjectively feel that my life started from my earliest experience I can recall. That was when I was on the back of my father, or more archetypally when we ate the fruit of knowledge.
That is to say, for the first time in my life, I saw myself in my consciousness. My meta-perspective was born. For the first time, both Adam and Eve saw themselves in their meta-perspective in their lives, realizing they were naked.
That is when we see ourselves as one entity separated from the rest of the environment, the world, and the universe. Seeing ourselves as a separate being, naturally, we ask these questions about it.
- When did it start?
- When will it end itself?
- How long can it last?
With these questions, the concept of “aging” (the finiteness of one’s life) comes to our consciousness in the meta-perspective.
We recognize ourselves as a sort of mental object. But before we were born or even when we were a newborn baby, we didn’t see ourselves that way. We were unconscious as part of the universe. And before our birth, we were even physically not present, being diminished in the universe.
Once we separate ourselves from the universe, we can see ourselves as an objective entity, spacetime-bound. That is to say, our consciousness is, after all, the imaginary spacetime realm where we locate a piece of our entity. And we associate this imaginary spacetime realm with the age and size of the entire physical universe.
Thus, when we were unconscious like a newborn baby, we were selfless, timeless, and spaceless. Once we become a conscious self, we are no longer selfless, timeless, and spaceless. The following questions start bothering us as an existential inquiry:
- Who am I?
- Where am I?
- How long do I exist?
What is our physical existence? What is our conscious existence? Can we never find the answers to these questions? It seems we can’t because all of them are within our meta-perspective. We keep on asking them in front of the mirror, watching ourselves on it.
Perhaps, only beyond this mirror of our meta-perspective prison, beyond the endless self-inquiry on this infinity mirror images, we could be no longer our physical and conscious presence. We diminish ourselves into the universe just as we were before our birth and will be after our death, more correctly, just like we are. As Jesus says:
Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am.John 8:58
Image by mohamed Hassan