Does anything that’s broken really matter to you? {Paradox of Ship of Thesus}

Alright, the stem of these thoughts lay in the recent movie I saw called “Ship of Thesus”. Like any good cinema, its bound to push your buttons, pull those plugs that lay in the deep recesses of our minds. But this is not a movie review. I don’t want to be a spoiler, ’cause its a great movie and you owe to watch it. However, I felt the need to deep dive in to this paradox and try figuring it out.

So, what is the Ship of Thesus paradox? Simply put, the question asked is if a broken ship has its parts replaced then would it be a new ship or continue to be the same old damaged one. On the contrary if the broken parts were fixed and if a new ship was to be made of the same, would it be an old ship or a new one?

This situation can be applied to a multitude of aspects. Be it relationships, work, friends or personal belongings. In my opinion the purity or sanctity of something new has the very means of its existence. Think of the first expensive gift you received or something as emotionally charged as being in love. Now factor some unexpected and unwarranted situation that leads to damage. If you note i have picked up instances that are completely the opposite.

  • Your expensive gift (say a watch) is a physical object. Something you can touch, feel and assign a value to. Damage to this may leave you upset, but you can take it for repairs and wash away the guilt of not taking care of it. But would it be the same watch anymore? I don’t think so. It would constantly bother me and nudge me to know that there is some part of the watch that wasn’t its own self. Maybe it would just loose its value for me over time. Some people may regard emotional value to this. But we all know what they say about damaged clocks. Best to throw them away.
  • The first relationship you have been in. This one is highly subjective and based on emotions/feelings. Now this is the tricky one. You’ve felt the firsts of everything with someone. You thought they were the one. Then, someone moved too fast. The situation changed and perspectives differed so both decide to move on. Now, later when the other person comes back and figures way to correct the mistakes, there will be that part of you that constantly reminds you of the damage done. It pulls you back, holds and growls at you to not give in. Do things remain the same? I suspect, No.

This brings me back to the paradox. I don’t think this is any paradox in the first place. When my fiance explained the paradox for the first time over phone, I snapped “It can’t be the same ship!”. This is because I don’t see how people can grow and achieve or move on to greater things in life if they were stuck in the past. Everyone they say is broken in some way or the other. Each of us has faced dilemmas, made a choice and lived to regret or fulfill our own visions. So aren’t we fixing our own selves every day?

Every problem you faced, every heartbreak, every tear, every joy, every success has molded and changed you to be the best and strongest version of yourself. This makes it amply clear that the broken ship that’s fixed or the new ship made of repaired parts can never be the old ship. I read somewhere that the human mind works in denial. That we wake up to the most important thoughts that our subconscious throws up. So whatever we may have faced, endured or enjoyed has brought us to who we are today. There is no old/new because the world is ever-changing and to keep up, we will be adapting and taking on newer situations in life than be stuck in a version of ourselves from the past.

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