Consider, for a minute, your life. Specifically, the subjective
of your life - what may be termed your "stream of consciousness
Your life can be thought of as a line, beginning at the moment of your
birth/conception/moment of first memory (or whatever), extending, unbroken,
to this very moment. It will continue to lengthen as time progresses over your
life, ending at your death.
That line, however, doesn't necessarily represent your subjective experiences,
the situations, choices, and influences of your conscious self. That line
is actually shorter than the line representing your life, as you are not
conscious for all of that time. Sleep can be the best example. I don't mean the sleep where you dream, but the solid, deep sleep that goes by
instantenously, without your experiencing it.
Other situations where you become unconscious also affect it. Anesthesia for surgery, for example. For your physical body, this time is no different.
From the point of view of your 'mind', your inner 'self', this period of time
does not exist, as you do not experience it. You can see (and often feel) the
results of this time, but that is not the same as being there. Time "jumps"
from your point of view, from before to afterwards, instantaneously.
You don't even have to be unconscious for these time jumps. If you forget the entirety of your experience, then to you, it never happens, you go immediately from before it to after it. For example, when I was young, there was a lunar eclipse one evening. I watched the beginning of it with my father, seeing the moon change as it entered Earth's shadow. However, I was quite young, and it was already late, so I went to bed. The next morning, my dad started talking to me about the eclipse, and asking what I thought of it during the total eclipse portion. I was confused, as I only saw the beginning - or so I thought. He hold me he woke me later that night to show me the totality. However, I was in such a sleep-like state, that I apparently didn't remember a thing the next morning. I never did remember it - so for me, it never happened, my subjective sense of experience jumped right over that time.
So, what does this have to do with eternal life?
Because of the way consciousness seems to work, our subjective stream of
consciousness can only consist of events that we will remember. Anything that
we will not remember, we "jump" completely over, from our point of view. This
MUST be so, because by not jumping over it, we are recording the experiences
in our mind, thus remembering them.
Let's make an analogy here, as that may make it easier to explain. We'll use
an analogy to a video camera, recording to a tape. The tape would be our
memory - anything recorded to the tape is just like remembering an experience.
When the camera is off, just as we're unconscious, nothing is being recorded
to the tape. We're not recording a blank space to represent the passage of
time - it just jumps from the moment recording stopped, to where it started
again. We determine if there was a jump in time on the tape by context, if
sudden changes occured that can only be explained by time passing while the
tape was off. We can also rewind the tape, and start recording back over
pre-existing material, and doing so permanently erases that information, and
when viewing the tape, it's as if the original content never existed. It does
seem a very appropriate analogy to consciousness.
So, if I extend this a little bit, I can imagine that if I were to have an
accident twenty years from this moment, that would cause me to lose my memory
of these next twenty years, never to recover it, I would suddenly find myself
jumping from now, to that exact point when I awake, discovering that I cannot
remember that time. After all, that is the only way my life, from my
perspective, would be consistent. It would be as rewinding the tape back,
past all that time.
With me so far?
Ok, let me take this even further. I've established the principle that if you
are bound not to remember an experience, it as if you never experienced it,
with your subjective awareness going from right before it, to immediately
So I will consider the idea of death. Death, with no form of afterlife, at
least no form that allows me to remember my experiences. If I were to die, and
just cease to exist, then all of my experiences must have been forgotten, as
there is now nobody and nothing to remember them. This seems obvious, correct?
But as I had established before that experiences doomed not to be remembered
are never experienced, and that death would mean forgetting all my experiences,
should my entire life not even occur from my point of view? If I am to jump
from before what I forget to after it, and I am to forget it all, then I must
jump from that nonexistence before my life, to the nonexistence after my life,
without experiencing any of it. With the video camera analogy again, it's like
completely rewinding and wiping the tape.
Therefore, because I am, from my subjective point of view, experiencing my
life, and remembering it, then I must remember it all (or at least remember
experiencing it, if not what exactly occured), for all of eternity, whether
that be in an afterlife, or never ending this one.
OK, now if this were true, wouldn't it then imply that everyone would thus
never experience amnesia, never die? Actually, no. Because each person
subjectively experiences only their own, and nobody else's, life. Each person
has their own stream of consciousness, one that cannot be even truly
comprehended, due to the nature of consciousness. In fact, as you read this,
be aware that to you, it shouldn't mean anything about what I will and will not
If someone read this, and argued with me about it for three hours, then this
evening had an accident which wiped their memory of the past day, I would not
be able to predict it, and as I argued with then, they wouldn't be able to
predict it either. Because their stream of experience jumped over the argument
with me, doesn't mean it didn't occur, it just never occured where they are
Wait, this is all very confusing! I still don't see why it doesn't apply
Let's break out the video camera analogy again. There is a video camera for
me, and one for the person I argued with. We each have our own tape, and we
cannot share the tape, or it's contents, with anyone else. We have our
argument, and both of our cameras "record" the experience. However, the
other person's accident caused their camera to rewind to before that
experience, and it was wiped. The events actually occured, and they seemed
completely aware of the events as they occured - but the "person" who
remembered them ceased to exist at the accident.*
This extends to the death portion of my argument, also. From my perspective,
it seems that everyone around me is experiencing life just as I am, carving
new experiences into their mind. But I have no way of knowing if "the tape
in their video camera" will be rewound and erased - I don't know if their
experiences will be remembered, and in fact, I can't know this because
I can never understand another person's consciousness to know their
perspective. (In fact, I cannot even be certain that anyone but me is
conscious - it's all just a huge assumption - but this isn't the place for nihilism or solipsism)
This whole argument bothers me in ways I can't quite express. Part of me
realizes that it seems silly, or may possibly be incoherent in subtle ways I
don't realize. Yet other parts of me are unable to comprehend it being
incorrect, that it all extends properly from the way I experience life - and
that the part of me that feels this way is large enough that I do find it
Regardless, I am always interested in input from others about any area of this writeup that could be clarified, removed, or adjusted, or any points or ideas that I may have missed or not dealt with as well as I could have.
*Interesting concept I stumbled into here, one that may relate to the mind and body problem as discussed relating to identity theory, specifically the pattern identity theory. Might we say that when a person forgets completely memories for a certain period, including completely that they ever had those memories, might we have in fact two different identities? The person who remembers those experiences, who ceases to exist when the memory loss occurs, and the person who never experienced them?