Not-Self: Thought Experiment 4 (Final Frontier)

Uposatha Day, New Moon, February 3, 2011

“O.K., Scotty, we’re ready to beam up now.”

“Energizing, sir.”

Bzzzzz Wrrrrrrrr … Fwup Fwup.

Captain Kirk and Spock materialized in the transporter on board the Starship Enterprise, hair mussed and looking a bit ragged from their latest, uh, enterprise, and at that moment in the midst of conversation. Captain Kirk was speaking: “… then our material remnants still?… oh, Scotty, ..”

“Aye, sir.”

“Please show me the ‘dematerializer ash-pan’. Spock was just filling me in on the technical details of the transporter. I want to see for myself.”

“There’s not much to see, if you don’t mind my saying so, sir, but you can have a look.” Scotty pulled out a shallow metal drawer under the control panel, in which rested a blackened pan about four feet square, in which stood two little piles of dark ash. Indeed, as Spock had explained, the Captain could recognize aspects of their former identities, a bit of blue uniform, a bit of tan uniform, some fragments of bone. The tops of the heads had best retained their original shapes as the ashy remains had collapsed in on themselves; Spock’s pointy-up ears and pointy-down eyebrows were clearly recognizable in the black ash.

“So, Spock, if I understand this correctly, the transporter doesn’t actually beam us anywhere. It beams data. Our material bodies stay here, where we are dematerialized. A kind of blueprint is beamed to where new material is reconstituted in our image.”

“That would appear, in rough outline, to be accurate, sir.”

“But doesn’t that concern you a bit that that is not really us that arrives at the other side, that we give up our lives here in order for this thing to work there?”

“I see no reason for concern, sir. Our tasks and the functional capability to perform our tasks are preserved in the process.”

“But it’s not us that comes out the other side.”

“That is not logical, sir. We do not exist in any enduring sense in any case. Our functionality continues at another place. That is all that matters.”

Kirk rolled his eyes; there is no arguing with a Vulcan. But in the days following that conversation the captain felt apprehensive and hesitated a moment every time an infestation of Tribbles or a run-in with Klingons called for his use of the transporter. With time, though, he relaxed back into its routine deployment. He certainly seemed to move smoothly and effortlessly from the Enterprise to the surface of whatever planet he was to visit and back again each time with no adverse effect.

Then, one bright and sunny day, the Enterprise was hovering over the planet Flubobo, where Captain Kirk was required to present several complaints about reports of alien abductions on his home planet to the the Director of the Earthling Research Institute, the esteemed Professor Flubub-ub, with Spock and Dr. McCoy acting as technical advisors. Captain Kirk, Spock and Dr. McCoy stepped onto the transporter. “Ready to beam, Scotty.”

“Energizing, sir.” Wrrrrrrrrr bzzzzzzz … Bloop Bloop. Hearing only two Bloops, Scotty looked up from the console. Spock and Dr. McCoy had dematerialized and were presumably now walking happily on the surface of Planet Flubobo, but Captain Kirk was still standing in the teletransporter looking around, at first perplexed, but finally ascertaining his location. “There appears to be a glitch sir. One moment while I check it out.” Captain Kirk stepped over to Scotty at the console. “Ah, I see that all three of you have been successfully transported to the surface, sir. The glitch seems to be confined to the dematerialization unit. One moment while I make an adjustment.” Voop voop voop wibble wibble. “OK, sir, you can step back onto the transporter.”

Captain Kirk took a step toward the transporter then turned on his heels. “Wait. You just said I am already on Flubobo with McCoy and Spock. Where is it you intend to transport me to now?’

“Why, nowhere sir, I just intend to complete the process that was interrupted when the dematerializer went out.”

“Which means you intend to just dematerialize me?”

“Precisely that, sir.”

“Over my dead, … uh, body.”

“But sir, it is in the rulebook. If we ended up with a new crew member every time the transporter had a little glitch, we would have enough crew for three Enterprises.”

“Forget it, Scotty, that is an order.”

“Sir, my commander is on Flubobo.” ZZZAPPO!

Scotty had produced and fired a paralyzer gun that rendered Captain Kirk immobile where he stood. As Scotty grabbed the captain around the waist from behind and began dragging him on his heals toward the transporter, Kirk tried to speak, “Don’t do it; this is murder, … and mutiny,” but no word was heard. Kirk tried to reach for his own weapon, but the movement of no muscle was felt. Presently with the dismayed and helpless captain in place Scotty returned to the console and, with a Bzzzzzzz Bloop, Captain Kirk was gone.

A few hours later, Scotty, at his console, heard his commander, “O.K., Scottie, we’re ready to beam up now.”

“Energizing, sir.”

Bzzzzz Wrrrrrrrr … Fwup Fwup Fwup.

Captain Kirk, Spock and Dr. McCoy materialized in the transporter on board the Starship Enterprise, hair in place but looking a bit haggard from the runaround they had gotten from the Flubobians, and at that moment in the midst of conversation. Spock was speaking: “You see, sir, you cannot find ‘you’ in your material body any more than you can find the sound of a flute in a flute. In fact, the atoms in your body are being replaced constantly.” Spock then assumed that distant gaze that advertised calculation. “Considering your rate of respiration, perspiration, defecation, urination, caloric intake, … I would say you replace 99 percent of the material in your body every … 7.2 years. The transporter, in effect, simply speeds up the process.”

Captain Kirk assumed an aspect of contemplation, “I see your point, Spock.”

With uplifted brow, Spock noticed the scuff marks nearing the transporter. “And besides, the material that remains here from your body is reused to reconstitute incoming troopers. You now have some of my previously dematerialzied matter, and Dr. McCoy’s, as well as some of your own, some of Chekov’s, some of Scotty’s …”

A startled Scotty interjected, “Oh, you’ll not catch me being teletransported anywhere, sir.”

Spock continued, “After all, I believe your Earthling Buddha once [MN 109] said,

There is the case, monk, where an uninstructed, run-of-the-mill person — who has no regard for noble ones, is not well-versed or disciplined in their Dhamma; who has no regard for men of integrity, is not well-versed or disciplined in their Dhamma — assumes form to be the self, or the self as possessing form, or form as in the self, or the self as in form.

‘He assumes feeling to be the self, or the self as possessing feeling, or feeling as in the self, or the self as in feeling. He assumes perception to be the self, or the self as possessing perception, or perception as in the self, or the self as in perception. He assumes fabrications to be the self, or the self as possessing fabrications, or fabrications as in the self, or the self as in fabrications. He assumes consciousness to be the self, or the self as possessing consciousness, or consciousness as in the self, or the self as in consciousness.

‘This, monk, is how self-identity view comes about.’

By this time Captain Kirk had assumed a glassy stare. Spock added, “And believe me, you don’t want to suffer with Self-Identity View. You cannot obtain even Stream Entry with the Fetter of Self-Identity View, much less realize the Deathless.”

5 Responses to “Not-Self: Thought Experiment 4 (Final Frontier)”

  1. Kevin Says:

    The day the music died 2/3/1959 . At 1100 AM my 16 year old dog Skipper will be passing to another realm.
    Please pray for her favorable rebirth.


  2. bhikkhucintita Says:

    I am sorry about the loss of your pooch. She had a long life for a dog, long enough for you to develop attachments. Dogs teach us a lot.
    I don’t understand the reference to 1959.


    • JJ L. Says:

      He is referring to the day that The Big Bopper, Richie Valens, and Buddy Holly died in a plane crash over Iowa. It was called “the day the music died” because of these three stars dying together, but especially because Buddy Holly died.


  3. Kevin Says:

    Buddy Holly Richie Vallens Big Booper died in a plane crash. Known as the day the music died.
    I am a big Rock n Roll historian.
    Thank you for the kind words about Skipper. She drifted off very peacefuly, I chanted prayers for her rebirth throughout Would love to visit soon.


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