Saturday, September 16, 2006

reincarnation via lousy metaphor

"Little Buddha" was on TV the other night. 1993, with Keanu Reeves dressed up as Siddhartha, Bridget "brainiac" Fonda as a math teacher and mum of the reincarnation of a Buddhist monk in Seattle, and Chris Isaak as the dad. Directed by Bernardo Bertolucci.

An elderly monk, trying to explain to the sceptical dad that though the body is merely a temporary vessel, the mind is eternal, breaks a cup of tea. The cup he says, is no longer a cup but the tea is still tea! He takes a cloth, wipes the table and wrings out the cloth, and tea drips out. Well then that proves it I guess.

Except it's stupid. The teacup is swept up, put into the garbage and trucked to a landfill where it will slowly decompose into its constituent elements. The tea goes into the carpet and evaporates. Any particulates in the liquid will remain in the carpet until it's vacuumed, and the vacuum bag is emptied into the garbage and trucked to a landfill...

In short, there is no difference between the teacup and the tea, in terms of longevity. Complex systems whether solid or liquid break down and reformulate over time. When the human body breaks down and ceases to function it is disposed of and returns to its simpler elements. To think the mind which is a byproduct of correctly functioning brain chemistry in the first place outlives the material component that creates it is wishful thinking. Our minds are us. Wouldn't it be cool if mind lasted forever! Religion caters to this wishful thinking. No wonder it's so popular.