Imagine a single piece of thread, about an inch long, a silver thread floating on a field of infinite black nothingness.
Imagine that piece of thread as a single human life, perhaps yours. At one end, birth, the other death, and all the triumphs and failings, joy and sorrow, all of the hours, minutes, seconds and moments of that life represented by the length of the thread between the ends.
Think of all the human lives that ever were, and ever will be, in their millions and billions. Doctors and astronauts and factory workers and farmers and starving children in third world countries. Popes, despots, mothers, fathers, sons and daughters. Everyone that has ever been, and ever will be. Every human life, represented by an inch of silver thread. It doesn’t matter if that life was three years or eighty-six years or three minutes long, imagine it as a piece of thread an inch long.
You might see those threads organized chronologically, running in parallel like the lives they represent. There are fewer of them at the start, since there were less people, and many many more at the other end. Billions today, perhaps hundreds of billions someday. It might look like a fan of silver embroidered on the blackness of infinity.
Scatter those threads. Churn and mix them until there is no more semblance of order, only a pile of fragments of silver thread each an inch long. Chronology no longer matters, relationships no longer matter. Every one of those lives now detached from context.
Now organize that pile of contextless threads in a new way. Start laying them end to end, a line of silver fragments infinitely long. But not randomly placed. Decide where in line those pieces of thread go based on how insightful and self-aware those lives led were. A great thinker like Einstein, or a great philosopher like Jesus or Buddha might be closer to the end of the line, while a child who died minutes after birth might be closer to the beginning. This order will be a subjective, but subjective is okay.
And when those billions and billions of threads are laid out end to end, with the least advanced ones at the beginning and the most advanced ones at the end, more can be done. Add the lives of animals, and birds and insects and plants, of microbes and viruses and single celled organisms. Of rocks and water. Add the lifetimes of planets and suns and galaxies to the line, until at last, everything in the universe has been added, and there is a single silver thread, infinite in length.
One single silver thread, the sum total existence of everything that ever was and ever will be, from nothingness to infinite knowledge and awareness.
It’s the butcher in the shop, and the soldier in the trench. The mother nursing her baby. The baby nursed by it’s mother. The person you were disgusted by last week, and it’s the playboy billionaire you envy.
Some lessons can be learned in one life. Perhaps it takes dozens of lives for an advancement to be noticeable, for other lessons to be learned. Or thousands. Maybe the real lessons, the true lessons need to be repeated over and over hundreds of times over hundreds of lives before they make an indelible change, before they are noticeable in the silver thread.
Is this how God marks the fall of every sparrow, how Buddha finds Nirvana, and how Allah hears all prayers? Is it everything and everyone you’ve ever known, and everything and everyone you’ve never known, from the dawn of time till the end of eternity and beyond?
Is it you, learning everything there is to know?