I was sitting on my deck the other day and I experienced a strong feeling that I was part of an endless unfolding universe (for want of a better term, my sense was not of an enclosed universe but of an open and endless ‘space’) with no beginning and no end, in which everything is connected to everything else. It would go on with or without me and all the atoms / electrons etc. that make up me would remain as a part of that universe (and though ‘my’ consciousness might not carry on, consciousness as such would).
Now, this is hardly a new idea, it’s central to Buddhism for example (traditional Buddhism calls it ‘co-dependent arising’. Thich Naht Hahn calls it ‘Interbeing’) and it’s an idea I am very familiar with. I do not identify with the idea of being a Buddhist, or with its rituals and organisations, but I do still have a commitment to much of the philosophy (secular Buddhism). The importance of this experience to me was not the idea as such, but the that I felt this idea and the feeling made it more salient. I have encountered the idea and experienced the feeling before. It comes and it goes and I don’t know if I will hang on to the feeling for long or not. But I am interested in the ‘fact’ that ideas are more powerful when they are also feelings. I would argue all ideas carry an emotional valence, but some are more powerful than others. We become committed to an idea when we feel it.
Some have argued that there are necessary consequences that follow from our recognition of ‘interbeing’, compassion for example. I am not sure that anything necessarily or inevitably follows from the idea or the feeling. I did however experience a sense of comfort or wellbeing in that moment; that everything was OK, even in the face of complete uncertainty (since everything arises and falls away); that there is something indestructible in the fabric of the beginningless beginning and the endless end.