You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away. ~ Bible
A person is not a separate being.
It is a portion of a thing that we have decided to say is an entity existing separate from the whole. Saying that a person is a separate entity is like saying that a bay is a separate piece of water from the lake it is connected to- the ‘bay’ is a feature of the lake (I’ll come back to this analogy), or a place where some of the water collects, for a time. Or, it’s like dipping a cup and taking some water from the lake- it may be away from the rest of the water, and be in the shape of a cup, for a time, but it is still water, and, it could be said, it is still ‘lake’.
You’d have to be solid to be separate.
You might be confused, the image of a person in your mind’s eye, standing there all separate and solid… like the desk or table you are sitting at reading this post. It is a separate piece of furniture from the others, right? It is solid and has definite boundaries you can feel, doesn’t it? That’s what people are like, aren’t they?
Your desk or table is not solid.
You are not solid. There is a relatively vast space between each and every atom and molecule in your body. What you perceive as solid object (desk) resisting another solid object (you) is actually electromagnetic forces repelling each other, in the absence of which you’d pass right through the desk (and everything else).
A human body is not a distinct and separate object.
A human body is a collection of atoms, held in proximity to each other, for a time. If we look at those atomic particles, they are not even solid. They can be shown to be made up of yet smaller particles, and those of even smaller particles… All of it just collections of things held in close proximity, forming a collection, for a time.
Nothing is solid. No form is permanent.
That’s right- even the atoms themselves are not unchanging, solid things. In fact, like our bodies, atoms are collections of particles that were once part of something else. Most of the atoms in your body started out as hydrogen and helium- before being transformed into something else inside of a star.
Our ancestors were stars.
Part of… nay, most of you was once part of a star, or multiple stars. Most of the elemental particles in your body are not even produced in our own sun, but came from stars long, long ago, and far, far away. Some of the atomic particles in your body (hydrogen, for example) were there when it ALL began- they were present just after the Big Bang, basking in the glory of creation.
You have been many things during your physical existence.
If we are the particles that make up our bodies, we have been part of many other collections of particles, or ‘things‘, if you wish. Between the time when the atoms in our body were being produced, and now, those particles which comprise our bodies were plants, animals, insects… comets and asteroids… clouds, birds, possibly dinosaurs… oceans, rivers, raindrops… bacteria and algae…
You will become many more things.
Suppose, when I pass away, I am cremated. The water that evaporates when my body is burnt will rejoin the water cycle, becoming rain, river… ocean… The rest of my body could be spread over fields of crops, or poured into the ocean to rejoin the food chain. I will become part of whatever absorbs or eats the atomic particles that were once me- a plant to be eaten and become part of someone else, or a fish to swim the ocean depths.
Mankind is the bay. You are like the water in the cup.
Nature has collected a bunch of particles in one spot for a while, to interact and take many forms. We are, nonetheless, the same particles that make up the whole. Water removed from the lake for a time is still water, in fact, the lake now exists in two places. When returned to the lake, the water in the cup is again indistinguishable from the lake, but it is still there, part of the whole.
Our form is impermanent, but our existence is not.
Our physical ‘form’ is just a bunch of particles interacting with each other for a little while, in proximity to each other, then moving on to interact with other particles. The particles that make us are on an incredible adventure of being virtually every sort of living and inanimate object, existing for billions upon billions of years, flying through space at incredible speeds, bearing witness to, and even experiencing first-hand, every sort of cosmic and natural event.
We will exist forever, in one form or another… rather, from one form to another.
Thank you so much for reading. I have a hard time expressing ideas like this, about the nature of life and existence, or things spiritual. In my mind, their implications are so far reaching that I have a hard time simplifying them, or reducing them to a few words that will do the whole idea justice. It’s like saying to someone “Finish the single sentence ‘Love is…’ and make it a complete and comprehensive statement.” It’s kinda hard.