A week ago, an idea got stuck in my head. The Ship of Theseus. The paradox of the Ship of Theseus. The more I thought of it, the crazier it drove me. Eventually, I wrote a poem about it. All that ran in my head at that time was writing about this age-old dilemma that has perplexed so many writers before me and will continue doing so for generations to come.
I am a firm believer of the independence of a creation from its creator. When you create something worthwhile, it detaches itself from you. It gets its own timeline and it gets its own wings. It will switch meanings from one reader to another and just when you think, even as a writer, that you know what it is about, it will surprise you.
Well, all this felt so beautiful on paper but I never really got to experience it, until now. This post is about those interpretations of my poem that caught me by surprise. An old friend who has been spending all her time studying for a Govt. exam for the past year said to me, “This tale isn’t that of a ship. It is my story. I am the Ship of Theseus.”
Another friend of mine, who happens to be a Moscow native, came up with yet another realisation. “The historic buildings in Moscow are being ‘restored’ by leaving only the facade, knocking everything else down and building a copy instead”, she said. For her, the history that is getting forever lost is like the Ship of Theseus.
I have had debates with friends and family on whether the ship is really lost, whether a thing is more than the sum of its parts, and whether a revered object has a soul. In yet another twist, a friend noticed that ‘the process of constantly editing the first draft to write my poem is in itself the Ship of Theseus’.
“The ship really needed the fixing
or so was the general opinion.
No one really noticed how each fix
sent the original parts to oblivion.”
I am only putting the newest version of it forward, sending the original parts of oblivion, just as I exclaimed for the ship. Poem-ception, he calls it.
To sum it up, I am overwhelmed. If there is one thing a writer wants, it’s really letting go of their work into the yonder, as it takes shapes and meanings on its course. Writing about it and dreaming about it was absolutely nothing compared to actually experiencing it. To every person who has commented, debated, discussed, and even mentally taken a side on The Ship of Theseus and its dilemma, thanks for being there. You are the one who gives meaning to it!
P.S. Based on Cathleen’s comment, ‘Ship of Theseus’ found yet another meaning. She mentioned how it is a metaphor for arts, since an artist’s original brush strokes get gradually altered over time to improve the artwork and eventually, the original strokes get hidden beneath layers of modifications.
Similarly, Marta’s lovely comment added so much to the poem. For her: “the ship can even stand as a metaphor for life’s constant changes: things and people we send to oblivion, shattered human relationships as well, where we might try reconciliation but deep inside we know it will not be the same as before. We wait for our wounds to heal and dry in the sun but we are a landscape of scars.”
My friend Warren had a rather unique stand on this as well. As per him: “. . it’s still the same ship. A ship is no defined by the exterior, but by the places where its been. The people were looking at it from the outside, what could only see with the eyes. They failed to see, the memories where within the adventure and the legacy it left behind; those can never be replaced!”