TheseusRead time in minutes: 2
I woke up to a dark room. It felt like there were restraints on my arms and legs. Suddenly, there was light. A figure emerged from the darkness. I tried to speak but the words escaped me.
“Stop fighting, child. Everything will be easier if you cooperate.”
The figure came into focus. I could see his long, slender form, white lab coat and black pants. His skin glistened under the light and a smile curled out of his lips. His eyes were hidden behind his goggles.
“Tell me, child: have you heard of the story of the ship of Theseus? Nod or shake your head.”
What? What relevance could this possibly have? I wanted to get out of there more than ever. That kind of smile on that kind of face never bodes well. I shook my head trying to escape.
“Ah, okay. Thousands of years ago, the Greek hero Theseus set out on a journey on his wooden ship. As the battles wore on, the ship’s boards started to rot and were individually replaced. After a decade of adventure every single board on the ship had been replaced. Was that the same ship? When did the ship become a different ship? Did adding a single board cause the ship to become a new ship? Was it after a hundred boards were replaced? A thousand?”
I lay there flabbergasted.
“Now, you must be thinking, ‘what the hell does this have to do with anything?’. Well, you see, I’m running a little bit of an experiment. If we replace your body parts one by one, when will you not be ‘you’ anymore?”
“And for that matter, notice your breath for a moment. You’re pulling in air and letting air out. When you breathe in, that air becomes a part of you, doesn’t it? When you breathe out, that air no longer is a part of you. Same with your food and waste, drink and urine. Are you ever truly yourself? Is the self always changing yet deluded enough to believe that it’s a constant?”
I felt a jolt of strength and tried to struggle against the leg brace. I was a runner in my younger years. I hoped that the residual muscle would save me. I managed to get my leg a bit loose and then I felt a pinch in my neck.
“I told you child, don’t fight me. I am your future. Maybe you will be more cooperative after the first board has been replaced.”
Everything started to get warm and the light faded into darkness again. That smile remained.