In Buddhist terms, as I've understood them, all things are temporary. Tibetans paint these elaborate mandalas out of sand, only to sweep them away. This is what I've read that it means. If I'm co-opting or mangling anything, I apologize to the people of Mallarashtra. I don't know what other words to use, to describe where I learned to think the way that I do.
I've been told by various people over the years that I focus on the wrong things, that I have such a depressing view of Buddhism. Gautama was such a cheerful sort, right? That impermanence is what makes everything beautiful, and all that, but this is not the problem Siddhartha was trying to solve. It's not a problem, unless you focus on it too much. It's as dualistic and reductive as anything else. Still, it was the theme of a painting I did, when I was 15.
Impermanence is not the same as noting that all things die or eventually cease to physically exist, although that is also generally the case. It's to say that everything is changing, always. Every moment gone forever. Everything that we experience, everything that we think, all the meaning we put into everything, This is all fluid.
Humanity may exist for a very long time, but that's not to say it will be recognizable as anything meaningful to us, given the belief systems of our time. Even should we personally exist for a very long time, "we" are just a culmination of circumstances in constant flux. The you that existed yesterday is just as dead as you will ever be. We just aren't wired to see it that way. This is incredibly beautiful, and horrifying, and no more or less dull than the dust of an exoplanet that hasn't moved in millions of years.
Time, as well. A concept, and interpretation. Only "gone" in the sense that we won't experience it again. The way our eyes see shapes and colors, where there's really only molecules, photons, and a whole lot of empty space. It is nothing like we see it. An image our mind creates, because it's representative enough of the world we've evolved for, to help us survive. This doesn't mean I can meditate my way to seeing it any differently than I do, however. Literally seeing, i.e., this is just how the physiology of the human eye works. I don't understand how that aspect of Buddhism is supposed to make any sense, but to be clear. I don't understand. I try to keep an open mind.
I have some weird ideas about where it all might be going, but that's just because I like thinking about these things. The Fermi paradox is probably described in a variety of ways, in different places, and it may even be yet another thing that I'm co-opting and mangling, so maybe I should explain it. First of all, I don't take it 100% seriously. It involves assumptions about the probability of a few things, that could turn out to just be way off.
The premise is that given how vast the universe is, how many billions of billions of stars - there must be a whole lot of life out there. That's almost certain, but also that a fair percentage of it might technologically advance similar to the way humanity has (As opposed to planets teeming with life, but no technology more advanced than beaver dams and bee hives.) That's decidedly less certain, but if true, then given the age of the universe, a fair number of those technologically advancing species would be extremely advanced by now. Humanity has only been around for the blink of an eye, and look how far we've come. Imagine a people who have been expanding for billions of years.
This being another assumption, though a little more scientific than it might seem. It's what life does, not just by chance, but because that's what makes life happen. From single celled organisms to billion year old aliens, that which expands, expands more. That which doesn't, gets left way behind and disappears, as other species fill every possible niche by expanding against all that can keep up. The mechanics of it just drive it faster and faster, until what?
The Fermi paradox then assumes that this would mean these very old aliens, technologically advanced way beyond anything we could ever even imagine, would be extremely prolific - and in those billions of years, need an insane amount of space. Possibly even entire galaxies. Likely using and producing insane amounts of energy. Basically, that it would be damn near impossible to miss them, if they were out there, anywhere within millions of light-years, given our current technology. The paradox being that we're not seeing anything of the sort. If there's anything out there, none of it is doing what seems reasonable to guess life would do, given enough time.
Unless technological advancement is just that rare. Could it be an evolutionary mutation that's nearly unique, all throughout the universe? There are lots of ideas on why Fermi is just wrong. What it gets wrong, or fails to account for. Maybe technology and/or evolution does plateau somehow, or maybe it inevitably ends in self-destruction. Maybe they take what becomes the obvious and indisputable step (said, tongue in cheek - of course it's not, but it's the premise of another example I'm giving) by converting themselves into technology and descending into nanospace, where everything can be done exponentially better and they'd be immortal. I read a whole article on that one.
It was mostly about the physics of how things would function if technology could operate at subatomic levels. You know, because of course that will be doable, in a few hundred years. Or maybe not. Who the hell knows, but abandoning our physiological interpretations would be quite the paradigm shift.
Maybe they realize that there is no immortal, there is no better. Not by mindfulness or insight, but by scientifically understanding every physiological process of the human mind, and what makes it all work, exactly as it does. A gradual multigenerational process, utilizing countless discoveries along the way, in which people tweak their brain function more and more. No different than how we drink coffee or take SSRIs. Over time, more and more, until the illusions just cease to make any sense.
I don't know why this sounds sad when I say it. Maybe it's because I'm a sad person. That puts an unintended spin on it, but it isn't supposed to be sad. I'm just playing with ideas. Layer upon layer of interpretations and assumptions. Almost certainly, getting it all ridiculously wrong.
If I were me, I would just laugh about it.