If such an episodic life dooms us to inauthenticity, then I say: So be it. The self is not a story.
But a discontinuous self forces us to live in the here and now rather than in the retold past and imagined future. We might even have the feeling that the self is constantly just beginning.
Life doesn’t need a narrative arc. We don’t have to be the stories we endlessly tell and retell about ourselves. Those stories are fabulation and — if told too often — falsification. The more gusto with which we tell stories about ourselves, the further we risk slipping from the truth. One doesn’t have to control one’s sense of self by constantly tying it back to some fictional story of identity.
To live episodically is to allow for the possibility of surprise in relation to the self. Sure, sometimes those surprises are bad. But sometimes they can be rather good.
Life Doesn’t Need a Narrative Arc
The story of the self is not always a grand tale.
By Simon Critchley
Mr. Critchley is a professor of philosophy and an author.