Thursday, July 23, 2015

Impermanence Permeates Us

Every morning, during prostration practice, our dharma students shout a line from this gatha after every 25 prostrations:


Before anyone thinks we're encouraging ever greater "productivity" and more things to do and accomplish with that last line, we're not. We're exhorting ourselves and anyone with the ears to hear it that we should actually be here for the life we have! We squander it when we fail to actually embody our life; when we take it for granted -- as we tend to do when we live as if we have unlimited time. The contemplation of our mortality is designed to wake us up to this. Whatever this may be in any moment.

The original second line of the gatha was "Impermanence surrounds us" which to my ears sounded like we were these islands of permanence amidst an ocean of impermanence, so I changed it: "we" are permeated with it; it's not some defect or add-on.

And here's something we can add to our contemplation when we consider the impermanent nature of the earth herself:

1. In about 1.1 billion years, the sun will be 10% brighter. This will mean that Earth's oceans will begin to boil off into space. No more yachts; no more cruises; no more lemonade.

2. In 3.5 billion years, the Earth will look like a true twin of Venus: dry, hot and dead. Yup. We and all life will be over.

3. In 5 billion years, the sun itself is running down, its hydrogen fuel growing depleted. Its diameter expands out beyond the orbit of the Earth. Two scenarios here: the Earth may either be engulfed by the giant sun OR -- with the expansion of its size, it will lose weight and thus -- its lower gravitation may push the Earth away spiraling out into a more distant orbit.

4. In 5.4 billion years, the sun is a full-on red giant, with only a little bit of hydrogen left in a shell around its helium core.

5. By 6.4 billion years from now, the sun's outer layers will slough off, leaving behind a white dwarf, so dense that a teaspoon of it weighs 15-tons! If the Earth hadn't already been engulfed in the red giant stage, now the extreme gravity of the white dwarf may cause the now molten wasteland of the Earth to fall into the remains of its star,

Enjoy your day!

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