The ship of Theseus

A desk, a disease, a disability, a life is a framing of a brief moment, nothing permanent. To what passage in time do I become attached and with what consequence? Imagine a diagnosis as the pinning and labeling of a butterfly. Useful, but it tells just a little of what it is to be one, flying. sipping nectar, being a caterpillar, metamorphosing. Chronic illness is a speeded up illustration of our fate, the impermanence of each of our lives. Its meaning is rooted in the god Chronos, serpentine in shape, whose consort was, Ananke, the personification of destiny or fate. They wrapped the primordial cosmic egg and when it split the ordered universe emerged from chaos.We are born, we pass our time, we die. For most of us, until older age settles upon us, we barely notice how briefly we burn.
A centuries-old tale from ancient Greece, “The Ship of Theseus,” suggests a paradox that the ill share with those not yet afflicted, even if the latter are not aware of it. Theseus sailed his ship on his mythic adventures throughout the Aegean Sea. By the time he returned home, all the oars, planks, sails, and lines had been worn and replaced. Yet the ship’s name remained the same and its old sailors thought of it as the same vessel on which they had seen so many wonders.
Philosophers have debated whether the ship is the same despite all the changes it endured. Illness, like birth, puberty, and indeed, dying, is a profound transformation of our being in the world. It is a lesson in the flesh of the notion of nothingness, the delusion of permanence amid the continuity of sameness and change. We may look the same; our environment is the same. Yet everything is different.

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