Take a leaf off a tree. Is it still a tree? Take a single twig off a tree. Is it still a tree? Remove an entire branch from a tree. Is it still a tree? Take off half of the branches. Is it still a tree? Cut down the whole tree, leaving only the stump. Is it still a tree? Many people would say no, it is no longer a tree, though the roots may still be in the ground. Well, where did the tree go? Removing a leaf, it remains a tree, but not by removing all of the branches and the trunk?
In the real world, there aren’t any things as we commonly think of them. A ‘thing’ as we refer to it is only a noun. A noun is merely an idea, a mental construct. These ‘things’ exist only in our minds. There is no tree, there is only the idea of a tree.
I’ve been writing here for almost a decade, pouring 10 years of my life into this blog. I recently considered cleaning up the content by deleting a significant chunk of my old entries; I’m not the same person as when I wrote them, and I don’t even like who I was back then. Not to mention the fact that some are rather embarrassing, like reading your old diary in high school when the biggest problem was what people thought when you wore your uniform cause you forgot it was a Civvies Day.
The problem I was faced with was deciding what should be deleted. People aren’t static; they’re processes, events, evolutions, made up of cells that continually renew themselves on a daily basis. At what definable point can I say these entries are no longer me? It could be argued that even posts as recent as a few months ago aren’t an accurate representation, though there may still remnants of the old me in the habits of my thoughts.
Then I came across this passage in The Tao by Mark Forstater, on the subject of how using human language to encompass and describe a concept such as the Tao is logically suspect: “Reality can’t be enclosed and described by words. Symbols aren’t real in the way that a tree is real, and however much we may delude ourselves that they are, we’ll eventually find that the word ‘water’ won’t quench our thirst.”
I came to accept that the things I write here have never been and never will be a complete reflection of who I am, so I’ve decided to keep all the entries. The ones written by my old self serve as a reminder of who I was, and at the very least, they tell me where I’ve been and how far I’ve come.