I have often puzzled and puzzled about what it must be like to go to sleep and never wake up to be simply not there forever and ever. After all one has some intimation of this by the interval that separates going to sleep from waking. When we don’t have any dreams but go to sleep and then suddenly we’re there again and in the interim of nothing.
And if there was never any end to that interval if the waking up didn’t happen that’s such a curious thought. And yet you know, I believe that there, although that’s rather gloomy kind of consideration, I found that’s one of the most creative thoughts I ever thought in my life and I keep going back to it.
You know it’s in line with a lot of the very fundamental questions that children ask when they say, ‘Mummy, who would I have been if you had married someone else.’ These are the kind of questions that make us puzzle profoundly about our existence. And one of the reasons why I think, thinking about not being, about total non-existence is so creative, is that in comparison with that thought, the fact that we are seems kind of queer.
If I were you, we often said, one might so easily have been you. I might so easily have been born in China and India. Why do I feel that the world is centered in this place as distinct from some other place. You jolly well know the World is centered where you are. And this gives one a very strange feeling of the idea that other people jolly will exist in the same sense you do.
Everybody’s name is I, that’s what you call yourself. So, there will always be I’s in the World. Every I is in a way the same I. We all might be anyone else and there is no escape. It goes on and on, on, on, so long as there is Consciousness anywhere that is I. You then in a way look out through all I’s.
Death is not the end of Consciousness.
If we think of death as endless darkness, endless nothingness, is not only inconceivable, but it’s logically, absolutely meaningless. Because we aren’t able to have any idea, much less sensation of nothing, unless it can be compared with the sensation of something. And therefore, what is meant, is the vacuum that is created, the disappearance of a being, the disappearance of his memory system, is filled by another being.
Who is I, just as you feel your I. The funny thing about being I, is that you can only experience I sensation in the singular. You can’t experience two or three I’s all at the same time. Now then, it seems to me that this idea has very important consequences.
One is that the disappearance of our memory in death, is not really something to be regretted. Of course, everybody wishes to hold forever, to the memories and to the people and to the situations that he particularly loves. But surely, if we think this through, is that actually what we want?
Do we really want to have those we love, however greatly we love them, for always and always and always? Isn’t it inconceivable that even in a very distant future, we wouldn’t get tired of it? And this indeed, is the secret of it, why the demon impermanence is nice. Because it is forgetting about things, that renews their wonder.
Just think. When you opened your eyes on the World for the first time as a child, how brilliant colors were. What a jewel the sun was, what marvel were the stars, how incredibly alive the trees were. That’s all because they were new to your eyes.
Or in the same way you know how you’ve been reading a mystery story, and you’re looking around the house looking for something to read, you pick up an old mystery story. If you had read it years and years ago and you’d forgotten all about the plot, it still excites you. But if you remember the plot, it doesn’t excite you.
And so, by the dispensation of forgetting, the world is constantly renewed, and we are able to see it again and again and to love again and again, to have people to whom we are deeply attached, and deeply fond, always with renewed intensity. And without the contrast of having seen before, before, before, before …