“Does my memory of you consist in parts? Simple, component parts? Ascending and descending segments, your curve in space. Are you a composite? Or are you a whole, your name, all of you at once, a simple element?”
Much like my last blog post, this post begins with a quote from Percival Everett’s Re: f(gesture), from a poem titled (logic). This quote alludes (at least in my mind) to a concept that was discussed in our class while reading Everett’s I Am Not Sidney Piotier. This is the thought experiment of the “Ship of Theseus”. The Ship of Theseus thought experiment revolves around a scenario where the greek hero Theseus’ ship is falling apart so it is restored plank by plank over time. The question raised by this scenario is; is the ship of Theseus still the same ship that left when his journey began? Or has it become new ship as each one of its component parts have been replaced? This is a very rudimentary explanation of this thought experiment, but it will suffice for the purposes of my discussion. It seems that (logic) is making a reference to the philosophical question that this thought experiment raises.
Prior to reading the quote cited above, I had not considered a real world application of this thought experiment. It had always seemed to me that this philosophical inquiry remained purely within the context of Theseus’ ship. I had never attempted to branch this concept into my own reality. On the other hand, (logic) seemingly branches this idea to the human condition, to the human reality. (Logic) questions whether people are made of parts, if we are perceived by our particular attributes, or if we are one whole element in space. My answer to this question is that we are made of parts.
From a very scientific sense we are made up of billions of cells, each one dying at one point in our life span. Technically speaking we are made of component parts that are constantly replaced, in other words we are much like Theseus’ ship. Theoretically the person we are born as isn’t the same person say in 20 years time. That is in a literal sense, but if one looks at it in terms of how we grow, we are not the same person as when we were young. From personal experience, over this semester I can safely say that I have become a different person. Through learning lessons from Professor McCoy, and Everett’s writing, I have had my outlook on life altered greatly. I have said this before in my posts, but my life has changed from a structured reality to one of fluidity. What was once black and white is now grey, and I am better off because of this. This is just one of many examples from my personal experience, but I am sure if you took the time to reflect you could see how you have changed since you were young.
I am not the same Kevin as I was at the beginning of the semester, but I cannot attest to the experiences of others. This change and growth was only possible through the fact that I am a composite being comprised of joy and sadness, experience and inexperience, knowledge and ignorance, and two strands of DNA compiled into one. To imagine people as fixed beings is to fail to fundamentally understand humans. Humans are fluid creatures constantly changing, yet trying to live in a world ruled by structure. We can not be as Everett puts it “a whole, your name, all of you at once, a simple element”. I am not Kevin the individual being, unlike no other in the world. I am my father, and mother, I am my brother, I am my friends. My being is so directly tied to the existence of others that I cannot say I am a whole, one person. I am a composite.
When I first saw the quote by Everett, “I AM NOT MYSELF TODAY”, I thought I had an understanding of the meaning that was grounded, but upon writing this post I have found new meaning in it. No one can be themselves when they are constantly changing, there is no standard of who someone should be in order to be “themselves”. We are composite beings and when one of those aspects change we become a new person, we become ourselves. The past versions of ourselves live only in memory and recollection, who we have become is who we are. I can truly say that I am not “myself” today and I will never be “myself” again, I will only be who I am.
People are composite, parts of a greater world put into a mold of flawed design. Once we understand the fluidity of people scorn can be decreased. Fluidity lends an inherent attribute of growth, and if people can learn and grow from the things that bring scorn upon them, they can bar themselves from such scornful action. I don’t mean to change this to a “self love” blog post but there is something to be said to the fact that understanding that we are constantly changing, it is easier to appreciate how amazing we truly are. Each one of us is a mosaic of culture, and upbringing whose existence is so miraculous, it is hard not to appreciate ourselves when you think deeply about it. Neil Degrasse Tyson said that the number of people who could be born, won’t be. All of my life I have heard people talk of the “miracle of life” and for most of my life I didn’t get it. I took people for granted, their existence as inherent. Through (logic) I can appreciate the beauty of humanity much better than I once could. I do not say I believe in miracles, but I believe in people. We are all just ships wandering in the dark without a clue where we are going, fixing ourselves as we crash into the waves.