It’s weird thinking that the atoms that make up me have been around for billions of years. As atoms, they’ve existed since some time after the Big Bang. Before that, they were smaller particles. So, in some way, everyone I’ve known, all that I’ve seen, and all that is me has existed for quite a while.
But atoms don’t have memory. They exist. They move. They join other atoms to form compounds. At some point, they have combined to form me.
My atoms still don’t have memory, but they have blended into a chemical process that can store information in ways it can’t appreciate. Other chemical processes create things that can gather other information. Eyes for light. Ears for sound. Smell for things in the air. And so on.
Sometimes I wonder if any of the atoms I began life with are still around. The most likely candidate is calcium in my bones, though it can break down and get replaced just like any other tissue. Or maybe none of me is original, and I’m in a state of collecting and shedding matter in a way that keeps my consciousness aloft but can do so without an interruption in perception.
And if that’s the case, is there any state of matter that my body must keep in order to keep its chemical processes going? Or am I fated to be cycling through matter? These thoughts can be pretty disturbing.
When I die, the chemical process stops like a game of musical chairs I am destined to lose. The atoms will not return to an inert state; they will exist in the same capacity as before. They will continue on as they have for billions of years.