John Locke followed his assumptions (holding experience to be paramount) through to the conclusion that what makes us human is our collections of disconnected ideas – memories – that there is no self underpinning these memories. We’re bundles of ideas. I’ve always liked that take on what it is to be a human. I’ve developed a personal belief that I believe comes from the Lockean notion: we are collections of memories in that they are all that matters. Maybe there’s something else – but nothing that makes any practical difference. If we lose our memories, we are no longer ourselves in any meaningful (to us) sense. I have developed, from this idea, a general guide for living. It’s an ethic, I suppose, in that it provides consistent guidance as to how I ought to live. I am living the life I hope to remember. I hope to look back at myself as being the sort of person of whom future-me would approve.
There’s a cognitive therapy sometimes used to decrease the impact of Alzheimer’s disease based in ideas running along these lines. The therapist asks the suffering individual to tell his or her life story. The person’s self-reflection prolongs their relationship with themselves.
Similarly, we are always reinventing ourselves, almost always without our own knowledge, and we revise our memories and beliefs about ourselves to suit our present self-conception, whatever form it may take. This is how we know ourselves. I’d like to make this a more conscious process insofar as I am able.
Today, I’m setting off for my hundredth trip away from home and out of the ordinary – and my fifth to Europe. Each time I go, I create new memories to add to my self-conception. Along the way, I’ll share some thoughts here, as I’ve done in the past. I encourage you to set out to make your own memories that will be a part of your own cognitive therapy programming – and that you begin telling your own stories right now. Why wait?
John Wick is the entertainment for the trip. That’s what made me think of John Locke. I’m the sort of fellow who makes that connection. I like that about myself.