I became insane with long intervals of horrible sanity.
Edgar Allen Poe

The trouble with fighting for human freedom is that one spends most of one's time defending scoundrels. For it is against scoundrels that oppressive laws are first aimed, and oppression must be stopped at the beginning if it is to be stopped at all.
- H. L. Mencken

Many people would sooner die than think; In fact, they do so
-Bertrand Russell

What I have been telling you, from alpha to omega, what is the one great thing the sigil taught me — that everything in life is miraculous. For the sigil taught me that it rests within the power of each of us to awaken at will from a dragging nightmare of life made up of unimportant tasks and tedious useless little habits, to see life as it really is, and to rejoice in its exquisite wonderfulness. If the sigil were proved to be the top of a tomato-can, it would not alter that big fact, nor my fixed faith. No Harrowby, the common names we call things by do not matter — except to show how very dull we are ...
-James Branch Cabell

December 08, 2012 - 12:00 p.m.

I and Me; Didn't Get to Myself

Enough procrastinating it's time to write. I have a backlog of ideas bouncing around my head if I don't let them out they might damage something.

I missed two shows last night that I wanted to go to, Avi Wisnia, and Andrew Vladeck. I've only seen Avi a few times and I haven't seen Andrew in years and this was my chance. I could have seen both. I really wanted to see both. I just didn't have the energy. Instead I stayed home and did laundry. At least I got to play on turntable.fm with Carey after school.

So now onto ideas. I have no idea how much I'll have to say about them. Sometimes I sit down to write and all that out is a sentence. Sometimes I find it hard to stop writing. If they end up short I'll write about more than one thing.

Let's start with the less popular one. I want to call it eschatology but it isn't. I thought eschatology was the study of what happens after you die but it isn't. It's about the end of the world, not the individual. Is there a word for theories of an afterlife? Of course as you'll see that isn't what I want to discuss, it was just the stepping off point.

Except perhaps when I was very young the idea of life after death never made much sense to me. If I'm dead where's the me that's living on? It implies that this physical body that now is totally necessary for being me become superfluous. Even when I knew there was a good chance I was going to die I didn't take the idea of going to heaven or being reincarnated seriously.

I've always been bothered by the idea of reincarnation. In what sense am "I" reborn if I have no memory of these previous lives? What makes it me? There's no continuity. Anyone else feel that way? It's like when a new business takes the name of an old one. It isn't the old company.

But that did get me thinking about what I found interesting. What's it like when you are dead? Just what it was like before you were born. You don't experienced anything. You don't even experience nothing. But now is when it gets interesting. Yes I don't remember when I was born but I don't remember the first three years or so of my life either. I have a few random memories that might be earlier but I can never be sure if they are real or not or when they took place. They are really memories of memories. I remember kindergarten when I was 5 and some other things from around then. I have vague memories of my parents watching the Kennedy/Nixon debate but the historical event I have my first clear memories of is Alan Shepard's flight in May of 1961. I turned four in July. So I know I remember being three for sure.

Now we get to my real point. I remember these early memories and one of the things I remember is that even then I had memories. What happened to them? I didn't just come to consciousness then. So my real question is, when did I become me? When did the continuity of existence begin?

The more I think about it the more I come to the conclusion that there is no easy answer. It depends on where we draw an arbitrary line? Consciousness is not a switch that is turned on. Instead systems come online incrementally. It's like a computer. It comes with a bios, then an operating system is installed. then all the different subsystems, the I/O the graphics, etc. Then you put in the programs. When does it become the computer you know?

When we are born our brains aren't fully developed. There are a lot of hardware changes early on. Our brain is still being rewired when we are young. We have to learn to use our senses. Our eyes weren't much use till we were born. When did we get consciousness? There isn't a clear answer. It's when we decide to call the state we are in consciousness. A newborn has some form of consciousness but is it thinking? It is quite different then a child, let alone an adult.

This of course bares on abortion. When does a fetus become a person? The supreme court got the essential truth right, there is not a bright line. The fetus gradually gets more and more human and so consideration for its welfare increases with time.

We know more about what happens after birth but each of us knows less than we think we do. We think we remember things that we don't. I feel like I have older memories than Alan Shepard but I know I can't be sure about them. If someone tells me they remember something from when they were a baby I'm dubious. I know I don't remember them. Well I remember moving from my crib to a bed but I have no idea how old I was then. And I don't trust that the memory is real.

So when did I become me? In a sense at this instant as I'm always changing. But we know that isn't a good definition. It doesn't convey the information that we want to convey. The honest answer is something along the lines of between the ages of two and five.

So I ended up writing more about this than I thought. I'll have to leave the other ideas for another time. I know they will be more popular reads than this one is too. One is related, it's just sharing many of my early memories. As I wrote this more and more came to mind. The other is advise for songwriters that I clarified recently.

Now I'm off to breakfast and tonight I'm looking to go to at least once concert, perhaps more.

I signed the Pro-Truth Pledge:
please hold me accountable.

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Horvendile December 08, 2012
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