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Infinite Monkey

By David Lintner

I am the Infinite Monkey.

I look in the mirror and see my primate self staring back through a networked bundle of pulsating quanta atomic electron quarky wave burst stuff.

Later, I look in a larger mirror, into the night sky, and see the star nursery where this conscious me was born so long ago, so long ago.

That is, if I think about time in primate terms.

Perhaps, in another frame of reference, this universe, which I only see from the limits of my/its primate perception, thinks of the same vast sweep of time as One Unit, measured from the time when it "was," until the time now when it comes awake and conscious of itself in this monkey body.

I am fifty-some years old, and 14 billion years old, and One Unit old.

* * *

I don’t know why we have to speculate about an infinite number of monkeys, typing on an infinite number of word processors, for an infinite amount of time, eventually writing the complete works of Shakespeare.

It only took one monkey to do it the first time, and it didn’t take him all that long.

* * *

I stood at the altar many times, raising the cup of wine, breaking bread with my hands, chanting words of consecration. And while conscious mind was struggling with surface meanings, something deeper in me understood. There was a deeper transformation taking place, a burning away of the dross, refined in the fires of my ego
agony.

There was a Silent Holy One, a Presence. How surprised I was to discover that One in me!

God is the struggle.

* * *

If you were to create an envelope for part of your life, and label it "love," what would you put in it? What would you collect? How would you fill it?

* * *

It is not about who I am, but that I am.

And yes, I can get involved in the endless round of seeking pleasure and avoiding pain, but what of it? Pleasure and pain, my body’s sensations, designed to help this poor blind corpse navigate through the boiling sea of change . . .

Blind in the sense that I cannot possibly perceive all that is in my typical state of conscious awareness; corpse, in the sense that my life is over in the blink of an eye, compared with eons of existence; poor in the sense that ownership is simply an illusion of thought, based on mutual agreements.

Yet I am not blind, in the sense that all my perceptual abilities flood me with stimulation, not to mention the possibility of receiving information transfer at the atomic and subatomic levels; alive in the sense that nothing I am made of ceases to exist; wealthy in the sense that the universe is mine to live in until I change states.

This ongoing now constantly changes. Perhaps the moment itself does not change and is constant, and only its content changes, continually. But of course, I rarely see the change. And when I do, often times it seems catastrophic. Earthquakes, tornados, storms, floods, freezes, droughts, each of them viewed from the limited perspective of an interrupted individual life. And yet everything is constantly changing.

The sun is expending its fuel. The earth is gnashing its tectonic plates together. Comets and asteroids slingshot through the solar system. Stars collapse and explode. The galaxy ages. The universe expands. Heat dissipates. Bodies live, procreate and die. The speed of change is relative. From a human perspective it is measured in terms of its effects on me. And of course, I live as if I were the only important organism on the planet, or in the universe. Perhaps my DNA believes it is. Isn’t that life’s struggle to survive, against all odds, against all comers?

In one moment I can experience the joy of hope, and in the next, the pain of separation, all experienced and created within the theater of my mind, all the result of personal meanings.

And through it all it seems like something in me seeks to break through the membrane of ignorance that keeps my nose buried in personal meanings and within the confines of my perceptions, and thus separates me from greater awareness, and a greater connectedness with all creatures, all creation. All creatures? Again, how limiting to identify with "life," whatever that is.

When I was a vegetarian, some vegetarians talked about the morality of their position: they didn’t believe in taking life. But what is a turnip? Well, sentient life, they replied, as if vegetable life did not have the intelligence of the universe coursing through every molecule. But when I stop myself and think about my limited perception of what life is, I can recognize that everything is alive.

I am rock and tree; I am the wood in my desk. I am the sculptor who shapes himself. I am the clay, and the hands that shape the clay, and the mind that directs the hands that shape the clay. I am all things.

And yet I slip into unconsciousness, and believe that the dream I am dreaming, thinking I am awake, is the only reality there is.

And yet again, what a marvelous thing it is to be alive, and aware in any way that I can be. What an awesome experience to watch the sun set, and to experience changes in my brian as it creates the experience of colors, as it creates the illusion of a world outside myself, as it projects a three dimensional picture into the world through the firing of neurons. And in the next moment I can be swearing mild oaths as I stub my toe and shift my attention away from color to colorful language and pain.

* * *

For years I asked the question, "Who am I?" And I got years of dissatisfying answers. Where do they come from, these answers? They come from a mind that thinks "who" has meaning, as if "who" were real.

"Who" gets caught in the illusion of a name, as if "David" were something attached to me like an arm or a leg. But it isn’t. It’s just a puff of air. "Oh, you look like a David," someone says. What if the people I thought were my parents had looked at me and said "radish"?

I am not "David". "David" is just a sound people associate with my body when they see me or think of me. Say my name and see me salivate. I think I’ll choose it as a way of directing my attention toward people who speak the sound.

I am not what I do. I am not what I think. I am not what I feel. I am not my body. Who I am is subject to interpretation and debate, a matter of illusion and meanings.

It is not who I am, but that I am.

For the time being.

Copyright © 2002 David F. Lintner

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