The ‘Doctor Who’ Existence

As we live our lives, all people face the inevitable physical changes that accompany growing older.  First, our childhood body is left behind in puberty, then our activities shape our adolescent body.  In adulthood, our lifestyles will change our physical appearance, and having children will change it further (women much more than men, of course).  Finally, old age will begin the process of eventual physical deterioration…

When we die, we are not the same physical entity that we were when we were born.  Our cells have changed so much over the course of our life that we seem to be a completely different person.  We take for granted that, throughout those changes, our mental self remains unchanged – in fact, we’ve built much of our culture around it, including the criminal justice system and the link between the educational system and the workforce.  But, in reality, can any of us truly say that we’re the same person our whole life?

If you’ve ever seen an episode of Doctor Who, you know that the character of The Doctor has been regenerated – reincarnated – twelve times (including the newest change).  He remains the same man, but inhabits a new form after each regeneration, in which he can gallivant around the universe anew.  It was watching this show the other day, that I had a minor epiphany…  You see, we are all The Doctor and, like him, we also regenerate over the course of our existence.

All my life, I’ve been blessed with a phenomenal short-term memory, but an abysmal long-term memory.  As I age, my memories of youth have tended to fade.  For me, it’s like trying to view my life, as it was, through clouded glass.  I’m grateful for the stories that my family tells, and the photographs that they keep, which help me retain the parts of my life that I never want to forget.  Having such a terrible memory, however, has afforded me the ability to compartmentalize my life and look upon it as if seen through the eyes of a relative stranger.  I remember being the boy who joined the drama club to be around a certain (unnamed) girl, but I know that I’m not really the same person.

In a way, I feel that making this distinction has made me a healthier person.  If we allow for a separation of the people that we’ve been, and the person we’ve become – if we allow those experiences to shape us, but not confine us – we allow for a far greater range of possibilities.  Every time we “regenerate,” we give ourselves the opportunity to build new experiences and leave old wounds behind.  Thus, if you’ve live a tortured existence, and all your thought is bent upon ending it, imagine how much healthier it would be if you could just leave that part of you behind, and end your suffering, without taking your own life…

Perhaps, if we recognize that we do not live only one life, but several, we might all be healthier people.  We can, like The Doctor, adapt and become new versions of ourselves, finding new perspectives on old problems and finding new companions to share in our adventures.  The possibilities are endless.

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