What follows will not be the post that I had planned for today. What I had intended to write was a fairly complicated reflection, rife with links, involving a good deal of composition on two or three interrelated topics. I had done some of the preliminary work on the idea yesterday. I woke up this morning and took up the work where I had left off last night. But I didn't have it. The energy wasn't there. I went outside and spent ninety minutes doing yard work. I thought more about it as I walked behind the roaring mower. I came back in and made some lunch. I ate. I picked up a book and read a few pages. I picked up another book. I sat down at the computer and found myself to be without interest in working on the post that I had planned. I read some more, killing the rest of the time until the first college football game of the day came on TV at noon. I continued watching football, and reading during the commercial breaks, until it was time to get some dinner. And now I find myself back at the computer...
Instead of what I had planned to post (as the third game of the day plays in the background), I offer this:
"How can we think eternally to maintain ourselves when personal identity is, even while we live, a plumped-up phantom, a frightened fiction by which the vast majority of us try to keep the wider sea from breaking through?
"But it shall break through. Sooner or later, for us all, it shall batter us down and break us through."
--Rebecca Goldstein, The Dark Sister
I would go further than that. I would say that personal identity is a multiplicity of "plumped-up phantoms." How, for instance, can I explain my ability to identify, with ease, with a wide variety of very different fictional characters, finding in each of them so much in common with my "self"? I find that I am a bundle of loosely integrated contradictions, connected primarily by a common, if unreliable, access to certain bundles of memory. And the devil is in the details.
It is most likely that the blogger who had planned to post a completely different set of ideas today, is not very precisely the same blogger who writes these words now. Yet to achieve eternal life, the quote from The Dark Sister suggests, one would have to become Real. I would say that one becomes Real by first becoming integrated; by merging what is compatible in all of these contradictory selves, into one, seamless, self that travels in one direction, with one set of memories, in one dimension of time. This must be a prior necessary condition for sainthood. And for the keeping of promises. And for writing the post that one had originally intended to write.