I blame science fiction, and all the various ideas of consciousness that it contains. You see, for much of my life I’ve struggled with a fear that goes something like this: Sleep is essentially equivalent to death. It’s a break in consciousness. So when you go to sleep, you basically die. The “you” that wakes up tomorrow isn’t actually you, any more than a clone would be. It’s just picking up the dropped thread of consciousness where you left off, the same way you are picking up where yesterday’s version of you left off. But that doesn’t mean that you’ll still be around tomorrow, any more than watching someone else’s home videos makes you that person.
The logical, if absurd, conclusion to this philosophy is that all of us are only alive for a single day. Remember the song? “Sha na na na na na live for today, hey hey”. The only things that you will ever experience before you “die” are what you’re going to do today.
It’s a very seductive theory, and there’s a bit of evidence to support it, but I’ve had to convince myself to let it go. First off, truly believing that today is the only day that I will ever be alive is a terrible incentive to skullduggery/adultery/aggravated-assault/impulse-purchasing/ZX-14R-wheelies and the like. Secondly, it’s hugely depressing on the days when nothing good or interesting happens. Consider today, if you will. The weather was miserable. Work has been annoying. And then there’s my usual $7.27 lunch at Jimmy John’s Subs. But wait! Today wasn’t entirely worthless, because I got to make other people unhappy.