I remember enjoying the class, and that I did well in it. I remember Professor Jackson, and even some of my classmates’ faces. What I cannot remember, however, is nearly all of the subject matter. Fascinatingly, the one thing I do remember learning in Philosophy 101 is something I’ll never forget:
David Hume’s Bundle Theory of the Self is a theory stating that a person is nothing more than a series of perceptions. Professor Jackson explained the concept by suggesting that a human being does not experience one continuous life, but instead experiences a series of small, individually packaged lives one after another. I’m reminded of the bundle theory whenever I start a new chapter in my life.
For instance, I just started a new job. Due to my decision to accept the position, my previous life — in which I spent nearly every day job hunting — ended. In my new life, I’m working set hours in a building 20 minutes from my apartment, where I’m exposed to a work culture. Initially, it required some adaptation because I wasn’t used to working for other people, and I’d basically forgotten what it’s like to work a challenging job in the private sector.
This is just one example of how my life changed, and consequently I felt as though I began an entirely new one. Other examples of short lives that I’ve experienced in my lifetime would include high school, college, and my first job. I could also title some lives (with some overlap) by my former interests, former dreams, and former girlfriends.
At one point in my life, I hoped that I’d be an airline pilot. At another point in my life, I wanted nothing more than to own an AMC Pacer. Another point, I imagined myself making a living as a professional gambler. All of these are former versions of myself that have would have no connection to who I am today, except that it was always the same being experiencing the perceptions.
I find this process of “personal evolution” absolutely fascinating. It’s not hard to tell that my interest in this topic influenced this blog — and the term “lifereboot” is simply a term I use to describe the idea of starting another life.
I believe that if you were to break down your own lifetime into the many lives you’ve experienced, many of us would start off the same way:
Life as a baby — or “the life I don’t remember.”
After that, however, we begin to branch off into our own unique lives — lives that nobody else have experienced in the exact same manner before, or ever will again.
For me, the next life was “life as a little boy.” Interestingly, I only know specific things about this life from photographs, home videos, or stories people have shared with me. Then followed “life as an unpopular nerd in school,” “life as an overachiever in college,” and “life as an unhappy member of the working dead.”
I don’t want this article to turn into a description of my life up until now. I just want to make the point that I, like everyone else who has ever lived, have experienced many different lives in my lifetime. Some of them are relevant, some of them are irrelevant, but all of them are over — with the exception of the one I’m living right now.
If you take the concept one step further, you could say that every day is a life all its own. Waking up is like being born. All that you decide to do in the present is your life. Going to bed is like dying, because it marks an end to one of your many lives.
The same thing could be said about dreaming. Experiencing a dream is like being born. All that you experience in your dream is another life. Waking up from your dream is like dying, because it marks an end to one of the many lives perceived from the subconscious.
This consciousness-to-sleep-to-consciousness cycle is the series of perceptions that defines your life. The notions of self and identity arise from how you are a constant being that experiences the different perceptions.
A little over five years ago, I was sitting in a lecture hall being introduced to the bundle theory of the self. At the time, I was mostly concerned about exams, grades, and graduation. I was anxious to finish my education and enter “the real world” so that my life could finally begin.
I am no longer that person, because I’ve experienced countless different lives since that time. Fascinatingly, all the things that seemed so damn important to me during my college life seem rather trivial to me in my current one. I guess that illustrates just how different the lives you live can be.
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