Well, sorry I’ve been away so long. Things are going well — I’ve just been busy with work and haven’t had a whole lot to say lately. But yesterday, I ran across a really interesting article that I wanted to share with all of you.
Paul Sagar, the author of the article, discusses several possible problems with the notion of immortality and asks if it’s even something we should really want. But what I found most interesting was his suggestion that our innate desire for immortality might not really be about wanting to live forever, but about being able to control when we die.
Christopher Hitchens famously said:
I do not especially like the idea that one day I shall be tapped on the shoulder and informed, not that the party is over but that it is most assuredly going on — only henceforth in my absence.
That seems to be the hard part. We worry that our time will come too soon, when there are too many things left undone — too many people still around that we want to spend time with.
But if you live long enough, it seems that there would come a time when that’s no longer the case. When most of the people you’d want to spend time with have already left the party too. Or when your body has worn out to the point that you’re just ready for that final slumber.
And perhaps just as great a fear is living too long. We all know people who have suffered with Alzheimer’s or dementia. Or those who have become physically disabled to the point that they can no longer do the simplest of tasks and remain in great pain. Death can seem like a blessing in those instances.
Of course, when people talk about immortality, they’re really talking about living forever in a perfect state — good health and access to loved ones. Would such an immortality be a good thing? I don’t really know. In the same quote, Hitchens went on to say:
Much more horrible, though, would be the announcement that the party was continuing forever, and that I was forbidden to leave. Whether it was a hellishly bad party or a party that was perfectly heavenly in every respect, the moment that it became eternal and compulsory would be the precise moment that it began to pall.
I can see his point, though this is something I go back and forth over. Maybe such an eternity wouldn’t get boring. Either way, I think most of us wish we had more time than what we typically get.
Of course, it doesn’t really matter whether we wish we had more time or not — wishing for a thing doesn’t make it so. We don’t live forever. And I don’t have any reason to believe that some part of us will continue on after death. So we’re left to focus on living the one life we do have to the fullest extent possible. Take care of those we care about; take advantage of the opportunities we’re given; make the most of each moment; live with as few regrets as possible.
Anyway, nothing I’ve said here is revolutionary or even definitive. I’ve really just been typing out my own thoughts on this. So, more importantly, take a second to read that article, if you haven’t already. I especially enjoyed the story about Bhishma, taken from Mahabharata.