My Evanescence

The reason I chose the name “evanescent” for my blog was not just because it sounds cool, but because I believe it’s a poetic metaphor for life.

All life is transient. If there’s one constant that is revealed from a study of the universe it’s that all forms of existence are ephemeral. It’s just a matter of time, and time is entirely relative:

Average lifecycles of existing things:

Anti-hydrogen particle: 1/10th second

Housefly: one month

Mouse: 2 years

Dog: 13-14 years

Goldfish: 20 years

Elephant: 70 years

Human: 70-80 years

Tortoise: 150-200 years

Methuselah Tree: 4800 years

The Earth: 4.6 billion years (to date)

The Sun: 14 billion years (total age)

From the smallest to the largest, from the briefest to the longest, everything that exists in the universe eventually dies.

And yet, the death of such colossuses like a star, often produce nebulae. Nebulae are enormous gas “nurseries” where new stars and solar systems form. The death of stars leads to the creation of new stars.

Without death, life would be impossible! The very first replicating molecules that had an advantage over non-replicating molecules, survived, and the others didn’t. Success and development could only be achieved through the filter of natural selection, made possibly by the termination of life. What enables life to evolve is the ability to survive and reproduce, and therefore pass on more-successful genes to its descendants. Without the pressure of death, there would be no competition. There would be stagnation. Life, if it even got going, would not be anything like what we see today. Gazelles get faster and faster and more agile; cheetahs get faster and faster to catch them. The large grazing animals become faster, tougher, and wary, so tigers and lions get stronger, faster, more cunning, in order to hunt them. Success begets success; change begets change.

The sheer brute fact that we can die, forces evolution to strive for better ways to survive. It forces humans especially, (as sapient creatures), to invent, create, and better themselves. The ruthless uncaring competitive living world produced bats and humans from the same life-form 85 million years ago.

The very thing that evolution has taught us to fear and resist most is the very reason we’re here: death. Mother Nature it seems, it not without a sense of irony.

Life is a cycle. Without death there could not be new life. Death is an inextricable part of existence. Everything that has ever existed has perished. Everything that does exist now will perish. One could say that this is nature’s way of clearing out the old and bringing in the new. But the fact that we will all die one day should make us never rest on our laurels. Do something with your life. Leave a legacy. Raise a family. Make a difference. Be the best you can be. Or, sit around and cry over what you cannot change, and die without a word and with a life of regrets.

The brute fact of death is often unpleasant to realise, but we’re adults. And wishing something wasn’t so doing make it false. It is no wonder humans have always invented comforting stories and myths of survival beyond death. But they are dreams to assuage frightened minds. Being a human and being an adult should be about growing up and facing the facts; seeing the world not as you’d like it to be, but as what it really is. Only then can you really go about making it a better place.

The evanescence of life is really the greatest gift the universe gave humans.

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11 Responses to “My Evanescence”

  1. Sandy Says:

    I hitched a ride here by A Load Of Bright and I must tell you that I devoured every word of this eloquently written post. Excellent! Thank you.

  2. Deja Fu Says:

    It’s quite funny that although I’ve used this same idea (and taught it to my students) for decades, I’ve never before seen it come from anyone else. Possibly because most religions deny the acceptance of death via some form of “afterlife” dogma.

    It is the argument I use for the insane pursuit of human life extension and desire for the accumulation and retention of wealth and power. Not only do life forms need death to live, but so do economic and social systems need reqular collapse, revision, examinination of memes and mores, and the entire evolution of science.

    In morality, the best we can hope for is the death of faulty memes and systems and the survival of better ones. The concept applies equally to hierarchies of systems as it does to the individual elements (like humans and stars) of them. It should be recognized as a fundamental principle.

    Bravo!
    Hail and well met, etc. via a link at http://thegreenatheist.com/ linked by PZ,
    and the rest of the Interconnected Universe ;)

  3. Glen Says:

    Er, the sun isn’t 14.6 billion years old. The fact that it has heavy elements in it (as revealed by the spectrum of sunlight) indicates it’s at least a second generation star – our sun is made, at least partly, of the stuff of already-exploded stars (as are we, by the way).

    In fact the sun is believed to be of a roughly similar age to the earth.

    It’s the universe that’s about 14.6 billion years old.

  4. Glen Says:

    Er, apologies for the typo. I meant to copy your “14 billion”. I don’t know where the extra “.6″ came from.

  5. evanescent Says:

    Glen said:

    Er, the sun isn’t 14.6 billion years old.

    Hi Glen, I didn’t say the sun was 14.6 billion years old. I said:

    “The Sun: 14 billion years (total age)”

    i.e.: the total lifespan of our Sun from start to end is approx 14 billion years.

  6. Twelve Says:

    The brute fact of death is often unpleasant to realise, but we’re adults. And wishing something wasn’t so doing make it false. It is no wonder humans have always invented comforting stories and myths of survival beyond death. But they are dreams to assuage frightened minds. Being a human and being an adult should be about growing up and facing the facts; seeing the world not as you’d like it to be, but as what it really is. Only then can you really go about making it a better place.

    Leave it to you to bring religion into this. Religion isn’t a comforting tool, eva. It is a person’s explanation of life, just like atheism. I don’t see how Christianity makes things any more comforting.
    Evanescence is not a part of everything. It resides only within the confines of time, because time brings about evanescence. However, if something is outside of time, it is in a place with no time flow, therefore there is no time-span in between events. Where time is not, there is a never-ending place. A place lacking evanescence.

    The evanescence of life is really the greatest gift the universe gave humans.

    Yes, I’m just dying to waste away.

    I don’t mean to be rude, but you’re being pretty ridiculous.

    _______________
    If you’re wondering why I’m posting here, it’s because I’m just searching through the posts, looking for our “debates,” so I can refute you without having to type it all up again.

  7. evanescent Says:

    Leave it to you to bring religion into this. Religion isn’t a comforting tool, eva. It is a person’s explanation of life, just like atheism. I don’t see how Christianity makes things any more comforting.

    This is very revealing this! I encourage everyone to point out what has happened here. Look at Twelve Year Old’s response to what I wrote above. Did I mention religion in the passage he quotes??

    No. I said “comforting stories and myths of survival beyond death”. I didn’t mention religion or christianity, but, Twelve’s conscious is pricked all the same. He knows his beliefs are just another in the myriad happy stories invented by humans.

    Evanescence is not a part of everything. It resides only within the confines of time, because time brings about evanescence. However, if something is outside of time, it is in a place with no time flow, therefore there is no time-span in between events. Where time is not, there is a never-ending place. A place lacking evanescence.

    Really? How do you know this? A quote please, from a recognised physicist or cosmologist. If you don’t deliver on this, I will assume you’re talking nonsense again.

    I don’t mean to be rude, but you’re being pretty ridiculous.

    Once again, 12, you show that you’re not up to debate with adults. You just embarrass yourself every time.

    Did you even understand the article, or did you skim it looking for parts you didn’t like?

    Notice what 12 does: no argument, no critique of my reasoning, or what I wrote. No counter point that the brevity of life gives it meaning, and that death drives evolution and therefore, although unpleasant, is the reason we’re here!

    Oh no, none of that. 12 attacks his supposed reasons for WHY, not WHAT I’ve written. He attacks it, not because he can find anything wrong with what I’ve written, but because he doesn’t like it; it clashes with his Bronze Age worldview.

  8. Twelve Says:

    It is no wonder humans have always invented comforting stories and myths of survival beyond death. But they are dreams to assuage frightened minds

    Do I really need to directly quote everything you say?

    I didn’t mention religion or christianity, but, Twelve’s conscious is pricked all the same. He knows his beliefs are just another in the myriad happy stories invented by humans.

    Arrogance and ignorance. With you, they’re hardly different. You shouldn’t be so quick to assume the mind of others, eva. I have been kind enough not to assume your thoughts, but if that is how you wish to debate…

    Anyway, when you said:

    humans have always invented comforting stories and myths of survival beyond death. But they are dreams to assuage frightened minds

    You implied religion. You may not have said the word, religion, but you insinuated it. I say again, leave it to you to bring religion into everything.
    When I mentioned Christianity, I was just throwing in a thought of my own to clear up a misconception you probably had and still have.

    Really? How do you know this? A quote please, from a recognised physicist or cosmologist. If you don’t deliver on this, I will assume you’re talking nonsense again.

    Well, how do you know that 1+1=2? Because it is obvious, of course. If you are somewhere where there is no time, there is no time flow there. Oh, REALLY?! Wow, I didn’t know that if there isn’t time, there is no time flow. Gee, how did you figure that out?

    If I gave you a link, which I cannot do, as I do not spend my life on the computer, you would just insult it and declare it false without giving a proper reason, as you do with pretty much anything that doesn’t support your beliefs.

    Once again, 12, you show that you’re not up to debate with adults. You just embarrass yourself every time.

    And you’re not up to speak with them, but hey, no one’s perfect.

    As I said before, it’s fine with me if you want to believe that a 14 year-old can refute all your arguments. Quite frankly, it isn’t my problem, but it is rather irritating, so I’ll ask you once more: Let go of it.

    Did you even understand the article, or did you skim it looking for parts you didn’t like?

    I wanted to see if and how you would bring religion into this, and surprise, surprise, you did. Just look at the post. You started off talking about why you chose to call your blog evanescent, and then you go off attacking religion.

    Notice what 12 does: no argument, no critique of my reasoning, or what I wrote

    It looks to me like I criticized what you wrote, and the comment seemed a bit lengthy.
    Odd though, that you’d choose to direct your attention at the readers and start telling them why I am such an idiot, why I must be insane to believe this stuff, etc, etc. Very tacky, at least in my opinion.
    I, on the other hand, direct my criticisms at those I am typing to, not everyone else that reads what I typed. That is, unless, I am making a post to prove a point, and my points don’t usually end in something with the effect of, “and that’s why atheists should grow up and…” blah, blah, blah.
    Everyone has different methods, I suppose, but I still disagree with yours.

    No counter point that the brevity of life gives it meaning, and that death drives evolution and therefore, although unpleasant, is the reason we’re here!

    Don’t know or care what you’re talking about with that evolution blathering, but I’ll give you my opinion on the other part, since you’re just dying to know.

    The brevity of life doesn’t give it meaning, actually, it doesn’t give it anything. Rather, it takes away the time a human has left to live, but that’s obvious, and pretty much known by anyone with a brain larger than a walnut. What meaning could you or I possibly posses? What meaning is there? In Eva-world, we are just some accidents that will eventually die and crumble into nothing, and nothing we do will ever contribute to any cause that has significant meaning, because, eventually, everything will pass and also crumble into nothing, as is the nature of that which is evanescent. You contradict yourself.

    You said that without death, there could not be a new life, but what living organism’s death resulted in the big bang? Singularity? I doubt that was a living organism.
    On a different note, it (singularity, whatever it was) had to have the power to create time, in some, inexplicable way.

    Unpleasant…? What are you talking about? How is that unpleasant?

    Oh no, none of that. 12 attacks his supposed reasons for WHY, not WHAT I’ve written

    That’s only half-true. I attacked both why, and what. I attacked why, because it has just as much significance as what, which I attacked for reasons any debater would.

    He attacks it, not because he can find anything wrong with what I’ve written, but because he doesn’t like it; it clashes with his Bronze Age worldview.

    Yes, because the almighty eva can read minds! You disgrace yourself, because you think you can just assume the minds of others, without giving any good reason as to why you think that. I didn’t know that this level of arrogance existed, but apparently I learn things every day.
    You also show immaturity by speaking to the readers, instead of your opponent, when criticizing your opponent. It would be acceptable if you were simply apologizing to the readers, but that’s because you were speaking about and to them, not about someone else. Don’t you have a social life? The very first thing you learn about arguing is that you speak to who you are speaking about, not to those watching, unless the opponent isn’t reacting, and you want to get a reaction out of him/her. Otherwise, it is just plain tacky. And no, I am not criticizing what you wrote; I’m criticizing the way you wrote it.

    For someone who relies on “only evidence,” you sure seem to make a lot of unfounded assumptions, eva.

  9. Twelve Says:

    I apologize, I forgot to blockquote this part of my comment:

    Oh no, none of that. 12 attacks his supposed reasons for WHY, not WHAT I’ve written

  10. evanescent Says:

    Twelve, I have a standard to maintain on my blog. I hope for lively discussion and healthy debate between intelligent educated individuals. You consistency fall below this level, with an air of arrogance and total ignorance of the subjects at hand, so I have to draw the line somewhere. You aren’t adding anything to the discussion and keep lowering the level of conversation. I simply have better ways to spend my time. When I debate with you, I have this overriding (and justified) sense that I’m arguing with a child.

    You can draw whatever conclusions you wish from this. And I leave it to my readers to infer their own opinions. At the very least, you’ve increased the comedy value of my blog, albeit unintentionally. But it’s time to call it a day.

    Twelve is hereby banned from commenting on my blog.

  11. sykeye Says:

    Very nice!
    Life is indeed a cycle & forces/motivates us to evolve.
    In the big picture,”making a difference” may not matter. Still,crying why,why,why? does much less than training your imagination,as Eistein said,our biggest advantage as humans. Intelligence however,can only take us so far.

    When you have some time,visit my “Simplicity” article. I spoke about some similar aspects concerning life.


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