You’ve got to admit… it’s tempting.
The idea of living forever, or even for a time that humanity would deem “forever” is one that has been sought after, promised, dreamed of, and attempted since Man became aware of its own mortality. Studies show that, although there seemed to be some sort of rite placed on the dead of the earliest humans, they did not always understand it. Truly, there are accounts in what we would call a much more “civilized age” of people being falsely accused…of being dead. Life and death are still mysteries to us, where we came from, and how it all comes to end. We still don’t know sometimes why the body chooses to peter out, or why there’s even a need for death as we know it. People like Doctor Kevorkian would argue that he is taking control of one of the few things that we have control over: when we die. Me, I support the idea, but I consider the good doctor far, far too shortsighted. Controlling when you die is admirable (especially for control freaks like me) but I prefer to control the situation into one where I simply don’t.
Now, there are definite drawbacks to an abnormally long lifespan, particularly for a human being. Being, despite our best efforts, a race governed by our emotions, the idea of continuing life whilst all you know and love dies and decays around you is something not many humans could handle. In fact, some humans cannot accept or have trouble accepting the deaths that occur within their own natural lives. Humans don’t do well with death, and the idea of massive prolonged death occuring all around them is, quite frankly, something that can keep you up at night. I personally spent many, many nights as a child up awake knowing that one day, my parents would die, and I would be without them, which often would lead to me crying myself to sleep. I was a peculiar child.
Other drawbacks include a continuing integration into a society that will eventually become aware that you are immortal, and try to hack you open to see why, and the tricky issue concerning romantic love. As for the first, let’s get one thing straight: this is full immortality I’m talking about, in for a penny, in for a pound. No catches, no unfortunate or uncomfortable ways to secretly take damage or die… I’m talking full immortality, and the only thing that will end your existence is the eventuall, well, end of all existence. In that instance, being cut open on a regular basis would stand to be annoying, and one would probably try to avoid it, but having to reset your life every few decades is probably a significant hassle. The sheer amount of information to be known to create a new life gives me a headache.
As for the second concern…well… this one bothers me the most of all. You love your family and friends, of course you do, but you know in the back of your mind that they aren’t going to be around forever, and for the most part you’ve made peace with that. But, for some reason or another, romantic love remains one major bugaboo that plagues the immortality debate. For the life of me, I can’t see why. You see, I subscribe to the theory that you may fall “in love” several times in your life, but once you find “that one” all other past loves seem completely inconsequential. As such, if you find the love of your life twenty, or two hundred years in, it will still be the love of your life and no one else, before or after, will measure up. It’s up to you to know which one that is, and to fully recognize it, which dictates a certain consciousness of one’s self, and an ability to make mistakes when you find out that one isn’t “the one.” The idea of romantic love for an immortal does not seem troublesome, as five years with your true lover is ultimately preferrable to five hundred with an assortment of lovers, but that should seem obvious, shouldn’t it? Love does not have a time limit, nor does it have an expiration date.
Another tricky idea is that of the religious afterlife, and what an immortal means to that. Does it set established moral doctrines on its ear? Will the immmortal ever reach Heaven, or Nirvana, et cetera? How exactly does one look forwared to eternal life in paradise when one already has eternal life on earth?
To answer those: No, Yes, and very, very eagerly. Just because someone lives for a few centuries doesn’t mean that they are the Second Coming. Just because someone seems not to die doesn’t mean that they are performing miracles. If anything, immortality would give one more cause to believe in Heaven and hope to attain it upon eventual death. As we all know, life on Earth is fun, but hardly a paradise. Someone who has lived forever will no doubt look with a happier eye toward Heaven, because they’ve virtually lived Hell as described above.
In dealing with the positives, there is only one, yet it is more unspecified. Imagine being able to have held conference with Julius Caesar, Jesus Christ, and John Lennon, and still be here to talk about it. Imagine having walked the floor of the Pacific Ocean, seen what nightmares it holds, and not been afraid. Imagine fighting for what you deem as a right cause in all of History’s wars, able to die infinitely and serve your ideals to the absolute best. The prospect of immortality is, frankly, one that leaves me salivating. The mere idea of experiencing Earth in the 23rd, 24th, or 24th and a half century puts me in a state of hypothetical, projectionary historical bliss, and up until recently it seemed the greatest possible thing I could ever hope for. After all, who wants to die?
That being said, for several reasons (all within the past year) I think I would find myself unable to accept a generous offer of immortality. But hey, eighteen months ago, when I had nothing to lose, it sure seemed enticing. In fact, I recommend immortality to those who have nothing else to lose, and it’s people like that who should keep furthering the thought and study of such an idea until they find something to make them value being a mortal. When you find it, embrace it, and soon there will be another disenchanted twenty-something to think about it, and eventually there will be some disenchanted twenty-something, or thirty-something, or so on that will finally figure it out, and then all the disenchanted people in the world who truly thirst for knowledge can be rewarded. When your life seems completey empty, the pursuit of knowledge is all that there is, and with the ability to live forever, that pursuit can never end. If you try hard enough, you might even get to know everything.
Hey, it’s almost as good as being in love.
You’ve got to admit… it’s tempting.