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The Sunday Sermon; Lost Ships.

There is a problem of Greek philosophy where they ask; if every part of a trireme is replaced over seven years, is it the same ship at the end as at the beginning? I cannot remember who it was, possibly Zeno when he wasnt wondering about rivers and arrows that never moved. It is however a massive question that rather than having one right or wrong answer has a myriad of answers according to your ethical and moral out look on life.

A wise friend reflected today that some of the things I am capable of now I would not have been able to do when they met me. It caused me to pause, and it caused a sharp pain, somewhere between sadness, regret and wistfulness.  You would imagine knowing I am so much happier and self-aware is something that only brings happiness, the problem is that it means I also look back, and wonder what if…

Regrets not about what I have done, I firmly believe that when we pass onto whatever the next great adventure is we will regret the things we didn’t do, not the things we did. No, this is a regret that the knowledge and understanding I have now could have avoided so much pain, for myself and others.

Which of course brings me to that ship, and its perpetually replaced parts. Who I am now is not who I was then, the pain is a part of the process that was necessary to bring me to where I am now. I am reminded of the former sex workers who work with the organisations who promote the Swedish Model and want to criminalize sex work. It is as if they hope that by shouting sex work is wrong loud enough their former selves will hear, and make different choices. Dealing with the pain of choices of the past cause in the present means accepting those were the choices our former self made.  We can only move on if we understand we did not and could know then what we know now. Its my belief that the puppets of the swerfs have so much anger in them because they are prevented from making that step, that vital acceptance.

As for me, I am caught between knowing things could not be different, and wondering about those other lives, those other me’s, those other paths that may have led very different places. It doesn’t mean I am not happy with my life now, I believe I am incredibly lucky, and very blessed with the people I have around me and place I am at. But that pain remains, the desire to hold my former self and take away the pain.


4 comments on “The Sunday Sermon; Lost Ships.

  1. michey1978
    February 2, 2014

    As I read your blog, I am reminded of L.P. Hartley’s ‘The Go-Between’. – ‘the past is a foreign country, they do things differently there.’ The things you did not do, or our friends and enemies did not do, is of no concern now. And even if the choice led to pain, there may have been no other choice one can make at the time. At best we should look upon our past follies, as the hero of Hartley’s novella does, with nostalgia at best, and bemused wonder as why we did and thought such things. But never with anger, it is not their fault; they knew not what they did. It isn’t easy to do that of course.

    With my academical hat on I call tell you that the problem of ‘the
    ship of theseus’ was discussed by Heraclitus, Zeno in the 400BC’s, although the first account of the actual problem is told by Plutarch in the 1st century AD:

    “The ship wherein Theseus and the youth of Athens returned from Crete had thirty oars, and was preserved by the Athenians down even to the time of Demetrius Phalereus, for they took away the old planks as they decayed, putting in new and stronger timber in their place, in so much that this ship became a standing example among the philosophers, for the logical question of things that grow; one side holding that the ship remained the same, and the other contending that it was not the same.”


    • jemima2013
      February 2, 2014

      i eally like your point about nostalgia and past follies, and agree that Hartley perhaps had the healthiest attitude, even if at the time everything seemed so important, as it only can when we are young and experiencing things for the first time.
      Thanks for the scholarship too, its such an interesting problem, and I think in considering how we answer it we show a lot about what we believe to be important in making us human


  2. cartertheblogger
    February 2, 2014

    Oddly, my grandfather, who knew no philosophers besides Marx, defined the same problem as ‘my father’s pick has had three heads and four handles – is it still my father’s pick?’ Only Fools and Horses visited the same question via the vehicle of Trigger’s broom….


    • jemima2013
      February 2, 2014

      trying to reconcile the idea of OFAH and philosophy!

      Did your Grandpa have an answer?


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