I had a first year philosophy professor who I liked very much. At the end of his first lecture, he told us that no matter what you learn this year in philosophy or in any other class or any other discipline, the most important thing you can learn in first year university is to not buy cheap toilet paper. Pay the extra fifty cents or a buck. Life is too short.
There are two other things I remember from that class. The first is this. Picture an ancient Athenian ship in the harbour. It needs repair. And it is being repaired, albeit slowly. And almost imperceptibly. Every board, every sail, every rivet gets replaced. You overlook the harbour and over seven years, the boat is finally redone. Repairs complete. One piece at a time. It looks the same, it’s called the same name and it sails the same way. But is it the same boat? Every piece has been replaced in those seven years. What makes it the same boat?
Apparently every cell in our bodies is replaced or regenerated within a seven year period. There is nothing original about us physically on our eighth birthday. Or our sixteenth. What makes us the same?
It boils down to a body/soul argument, which is about a third of that which you debate in philosophy departments. Our memories change all the time. Maybe we are all only seven years old at any given moment.
The other thing this professor told me that stayed with me was in regard to a fraternity hazing. Blind-folded pledges were told they would be branded by hot pokers when in fact they were stung by ice. It didn’t make any difference. In their minds they were prepared to be burned and when the ice touched their skin, they felt the most painful heat. And it wasn’t simply mental. They developed burns and welts that only a heating element would invoke.
So in this class, I learned that good toilet paper is paramount. That we may think we know who we are but a few years down the road we may be someone entirely different. And that when we expect to be burned, the likelihood is that we won’t be. But if the expectation is great enough, if we are blindfolded and are ready for the pain, we will make it happen. Man, that was a great class.