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Friday, March 19, 2021

Do We Exist?

I get an email from Quora with people's answers to questions and sometimes I read one if it looks interesting. There are many, many answers, but the email just goes to one of them. Here's one answer to the question Do we exist?

How many triangles do you see in the image?

Unless you're cheeky, you'd say five.

Now, imagine you take one of the small outer triangles - say, the one at the top - and remove it from the group. You move that triangle to another place.

When you did that, what happened to the middle triangle? Where he has gone?

Did it exist?

One answer is that none of these triangles "exist." They are just the result of a context. When the circumstances around them change, we realize that they never had an inherent "triangulation", it was just a temporary label we assigned them.

In the same way, you and I have our own conceptions as people that are the result of a long context - who we work with, where we grow up, what we eat for breakfast. We do not exist in a vacuum. If you remove the causes and circumstances that make us who we are, the sense of "I" and the sense of "you" will be as empty as our sense of the missing triangle .

This is an explanation that I learned from a friend at a Buddhist monastery that I am living in this summer. He would have told you that we exist, but only in the way that stick triangles do. It is a way to keep things in perspective.

Bill Barry·

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