Sunday, 29 January 2012

The Chain

At nineteen minutes past seven and forty-three seconds, a man feels unease regarding the inevitability of his own death. The idea of total annihilation troubles him immensely, and all that would otherwise give his life a sense of meaning is, in that instant, emptied of any value. Without warning, the man ceases to exist, and the matter from which he was composed immediately becomes that of another man, separate from the individual who had so recently occupied that location, who nevertheless thinks he possesses a memory of being that man, and indeed, believes this to be so. In the very brief moment that he has life, he too, fears his own death. This is his only thought before he is also no more.

The stuff that constituted him in that moment takes on yet another incarnation. A man, who imagines himself to be not just the individual just gone, but also the man before, and considers them all to be the same person, and yet, unlike them, does not fear death. Rather, he is of the impression that earlier that day, he had read an amusing anecdote in a newspaper (although he did not exist then, and so is mistaken), and the seeming remembrance of that anecdote, and the pleasure that it causes, occupies his mind entirely in the fraction of time in which he constitutes a presence in the world.

And he himself is replaced by another man, who lives but for an instant before being supplanted. Over and over, the pattern repeats, each man believing himself to be all of those others who preceded him, not in the sense of a multitude, but constituting the sequential existence of a single person.

Finally, after some years, a man comes into being to live, like the others, but for one moment. That moment passes. He is no more, and is succeeded by no one.

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