Or nothing truly ends.
Which is it?
Assumptions are a funny thing. We often don’t know that we’re assuming something to be true until the assumption is challenged by a cataclysmic-enough experience.
For example: The one you love with your whole being nearly dies during an operation to insert a turbine into his heart. The bottom drops out of his blood pressure during a procedure to keep his very fragile original heart going until a donor heart becomes available. The assumption that you will have a long future of wedded bliss is challenged. And all at once, the permanence of any person or any anticipated future is revealed as an illusion.
For me, it was at this point that I realized that I had assumed-- subconsciously -- that I could create permanence in my life -- that through hard work and strong conviction I could plant some permanence in my life much like I planted sunflowers in my yard.
The love of my life DID survive that night, and now that Lee and I have lived without a permanent dwelling for almost 6 months, I understand that the drive to own a home, to sign a contract saying I am committed to paying off my very own plot of earth, to commit to an employer for a decade or more, to plant trees and perennials over herbs and annuals-- all these conventional acts were tremendously compelling because I wanted to buffer myself with some permanence.
These were my tap roots, anchoring me securely in time and place. Cognitively I knew it was all temporary, but I realize now that I was still laboring to drop anchor in the ocean of time. The drive to mark my path in permanent ink -- to leave a visible lasting imprint on the planet -- is ultimately revealed as delusional.
So nothing lasts seems to be the correct answer to the question.
On the other hand, Einstein teaches that nothing ends. This enigmatic genius gave us the theory that linear time is a construct of our limited senses. In reality, he posited, all time is happening at the same time.
In other words, T Rex is tumbling into the tar pit at the same time man first steps on the moon’s surface at the same time that the first computer-replicated heart beats (briefly) in the tiny breast of mouse at the same time as….. And I am an infant, a teenager, a young mother and a failing hospice patient all in the same moment. All time exists at once.
This would seem to be an argument for permanence -- or even for immortality -- except that our limited senses still convince us that everything -- youth, possessions, accomplishments, great loves and grand friendships -- all slip through our fingers in the end. Does it change anything to subscribe to Einstein’s claim that everything that ever happened is happening now? Not really.
As I’m sure you’ve heard -- if one is fortunate enough to be lucid at the end of life -- no one ever expresses regret that their home wasn’t big enough, their car luxurious enough, their garden extensive enough, their career illustrious enough, their children successful enough. Rather, they wish they had loved more, laughed more, risked more, left a more purposeful legacy.
My personal conviction is that my only immortality is the ripples of kindness, compassion, tolerance and approbation I sent out onto the world pond. All I ultimately have to leverage as my legacy is a happy, generous, adventuresome spirit. So this is where I choose to invest -- in my own good heart.
Nothing lasts but the ripples never end.