Dying yesterday to be born tomorrow

The ship of Theseus is a famous thought experiment which raises the question of whether an object (or perhaps even a person) remains the same object once it had all of its components. The paradox describes a ship, which after many days at sea and war, had to be gradually repaired and as time ticked on, every component of said ship has been replaced with new parts.

This raises the question of whether the ship that has returned from its voyage is fundamentally the same ship that has left the harbour. This thought experiment can also be, theoretically, applied to the human mind.

If you think about it, we seem to be different people all throughout our lives, we grow and learn and as a result change and become the new version of ourselves. Just like the ship of Theseus, we sail through life and inevitably wear out and suffer damage from our adventures — it is only natural for us to learn from this experience and grow, to change and adapt to continue our voyage through life. Our growth is parallel to replacing rotten planks on the ship.

Like the ship of Theseus, our mind replaces itself one small part at a time. We gain new experiences which overwrite the old ones, we learn new things about the world which teach us to act differently than we did in the past, our memories fade, the new pushes out the old. It is a slow and laborious process happening in the background of our busy lives but nonetheless, sooner or later your mind is born anew. Completely different to the mind that set off on the voyage all those years ago.

(Think about people that go off to college and start their life anew, think about how they change and grow. That very growth is this paradox in action.)

While this may sound gloomy and slightly depressing, it most certainly shouldn’t be taken as such. Change is often stressful but turns out to be beneficial in the long run, without it we would stagnate.

Change is good, you must keep moving as long as you remember all the people that you used to be in the past, as long as you remember where you came from and how you got to where you are — all those “past selves” have been left behind so that you can be who you are right now.

Perhaps the five-year-old you might not agree with the present you on the choices that you have made along the way, perhaps you two won’t even like each other at all, but that doesn’t matter because you were a different person then. The five-year-old you is now dead and all that’s left is you. So, you do you!

This death is what allowed you to change, it allowed to you to move on and grow. So take control of it and embrace it, encourage that change. There’s no point blaming the past selves for the mistakes they made because those mistakes ultimately led to you coming onto the scene and they made you who you are.

The present you is all there is and all that matters, and the future you is just waking up, building up daily, on the ashes of your past.

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