Saturday, September 17, 2011

Entry 171 9.18.11

Entry 171, September 18th, 2011, 12:59am (GMT +2)

Today's entry: a little thought experiment.

What if you could, with a sweep of the hand, erase your entire personal history? This is something that Coelho talks about in his first book, “The Pilgrimage.” For his pilgrimage to be successful, he must allow his previous self to die. The first exercise that his guide gives him is about rebirth . . . but I'm getting off topic here.

What if you could be suddenly free of everything that has happened so far in your life?

You would still remember everything that has happened, of course, but it would no longer have any power over you. It would the mind free to exist in the present, and accept truths for what they are. So what if things didn't turn out the way you thought – that part of yourself is in the past, and the past is dead.

It would also free you from doing what everyone else expects you to do. People expect you to act the same way now as you did in the past, but if the past is erased then you have a clean slate to work with. Again, you are left free to act in the truth of the moment.

People define themselves by their personal histories – “I am a painter,” “I suck at relationships,” “I usually win.” If your personal history disappeared, what would be left? Maybe it is like mathematics. Remember the concept of a function from high school? A function is the way in which one set of numbers (inputs) is related to another one (outputs). Take away the numbers, and all you have left is the machinery that connects them. That's what would be left of me if my personal history was erased – the process by which I react to stimuli.

Or maybe it is like calculus. Calculus can be used to look at the relationship between that first set of numbers and the second, even when given an infinitely small window of samples to look at. If the current moment is one of those infinitely small portions of time, and our lives consist of a series of those moments strung together. What's left when everything else is taken away is that relationship between the numbers.

Maybe that's the soul that people have been looking for these past thousands of years? Not a physical or metaphysical substance, but rather the relationship between lots of things as time passes. It's procedural – it exists in the same way that the quadratic formula exists. You can't “find” or “reach” the quadratic formula (“ooooh, it was behind the couch the whole time!”). It only exists as an abstraction, but clearly it does exist because we use it all the time. Are our souls the same way?

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