Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Immortality

I remember a line I read once that I loved: “How is it that those who long for immortality get bored on a rainy Saturday afternoon?” Excellent point.

We’ve all wondered what it would be like to live forever; I certainly have, and I realize there is a great difference between the prospect of living forever as an individual and everyone living forever. The latter would be more comfortable, but less practical.

If all humankind were suddenly immortal, we would within decades breed ourselves to the point of there not being a square inch of space on the entire land surface of the planet to hold us all. What would we do then, and how? Spread out like an infestation of bedbugs to other planets, to do the same thing there?

Science has fairly well determined that the universe itself will not last forever. At some point, our sun will grow dim and die, and the earth, too, will die, as will our solar system and our galaxy. Humankind may well, if it survives that long, be able to move on to other worlds, other solar systems, even other galaxies, but those, too, would suffer the same eventual fate, and there would, at some point, be nowhere to run. Mankind, too, must perish.

For a single individual, the gift of immortality would come at a truly terrible emotional price. It’s bad enough for any mortal, in our limited time on earth, to watch those we love age and die around us even as we ourselves grow old. The ending of any relationship is traumatic. Any form of long-term relationship would be impossible when one partner grows older and the other does not. Imagine how terrible it would be to go through that same trauma time after time after time through eternity. And for a single immortal man (or woman) in the end, when the last sun has gone out, what then? There are many things which cannot be conceived of, and this is surely one of them.

What I would wish for all of us, were it in my power to grant such a wish, would be that every human being live in good health, exactly as long as he or she wants to live, barring natural disasters or war or the many other violent methods we are so adept at inflicting upon one another. The decision to die, in all other instances would be completely up to the individual. I’m sure that for the first few hundred years, there would be very few deaths not brought about by the above mentioned means.

But eventually, the “rainy Saturday afternoon” syndrome would set in, and more and more people would say: “Okay, that’s enough. It’s been fun, but now it’s time to move on.” And “move on” to where opens another entirely new book.

I truly enjoy speculations like this, even though there are, and in many cases simply cannot be, any answers. To question is one of Mankind’s greatest gifts: to be denied the answer is one of its greatest curses. So, having little other choice, I think I’ll just try to be as comfortable as I can be with my mortality, and make the most of whatever time I have left. It is, after all, the mind which defines--which is--life.

Pondering the imponderable can go on...well, forever...but when it comes to the subject of immortality, the French philosopher René Descartes pretty much sums it up with three Latin words: Cogito ergo sum--I think, therefore I am. And when I cease to think, I will be no more. Simple as that.

Dorien's blogs are posted by 10 a.m. Central time every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Please take a moment to check out his website (http://www.doriengrey.com) and, if you enjoy these blogs, you might want to check out Short Circuits: a Life in Blogs (http://bit.ly/m8CSO1 ).

4 comments:

Kage Alan said...

And what, dear Dorien, would be on your bucket list for the next couple hundred years?

Dorien/Roger said...

Spend as much time as I liked in as many places on earth as I wish to visit. Read all the books I've always wanted to read, return to college for degrees in as many subjects as interest me. And that's just for starters.

Thanks for asking.

Katy said...

Great post. Being immortal would come at to high of a cost, I think. A little extra time would be nice to do and see all those things we couldn't get done in a short 80 or 90 years. I love how you always give us something intersting to think about.

Dorien/Roger said...

I does what I can, Katy. I'm so glad you take the time to read my ramblings.