It is a common idea that we are not our thoughts, and that each of us has a core personality that is the essence of who they are. I’ve always found that idea hard to believe. I feel like I am my thoughts. More specifically, I am my most frequently recurring thoughts. Many thoughts come and go like visitors. You can imagine them as figures entering and leaving the building of the mind. Some visit once, but then leave and never return. Others visit a few times, but aren’t too insistent. And then there are those that visit frequently, seeming to take up permanent residence in the mind. These are the thoughts that I feel make up my personality. They stick around firmly amid the constantly moving crowd.
I don’t think that we’re very consistent. We humans. I think we fake a lot of consistency because we believe that consistency = sanity. It feels like I could write endlessly about this subject. I will try, with much difficulty, to boil down some of my thoughts.
A recurring thought I’ve struggled with over the past few days is the idea that I am not the same person I was a few years ago: Not only am I unable to relate to many of the thoughts that dominated my mind a few years ago, but I feel completely removed from that person. It is an incredibly odd sensation. I remember exactly (or almost exactly) what it was like to be that person, but I am no longer that person.
So, what happens when those ‘permanent’ residents move out, and new ‘permanent’ residents move in? This is the part I find so difficult to come to terms with. In a way, what makes it so weird is that I never noticed the previous residents moving out. The changeover happened so gradually that I didn’t pick up on it.
I find it really disturbing that I’m a different person. Of course, I prefer my current self to my previous self. That is an extreme understatement. But I also feel guilty that I am no longer my previous self. I dread to think how they would feel if they saw me now and knew all of the negative thoughts I have currently about them. My current self is embarrassed about my past self, and I feel guilty for this embarrassment. How would my past self feel if they knew my current self was embarrassed about them? And also, how would they feel about the fact that many of their convictions have dissolved? I know they would not relate to me. And in looking at me, they would see their death.
So, Jamila, you’re feeling guilty about a hypothetical scenario involving time-travel, in which your past self meets your present self?
Well, the thing is, this scenario isn’t 100% hypothetical. The fact is that I still have the memories of my past self. I remember what it was to be them. So each time I remember the person I used to be, my past self encounters my present self: The two selves meet through memory.
Did I say two?
It’s not that simple. As you know. There are more than two selves, past and present. There are infinite selves from the different stages between the two.
And… not only is there conflict between the selves at different stages, but each stage has its own conflicts within itself. You can have contradictory thoughts and opinions at each stage
I now feel it is my task to reconcile those contradictory views and stages.
But what if they can’t be reconciled? What if that’s not the point? Maybe consistency is an illusion.