Immortality. People want it, dream of it, obsess over it. Some even think having babies is the solution to living forever; others, religion. Some write books about it, some make movies. Some men have journeyed to seek it, unsuccessfully.
After watching the trailer for the “new” Pirates of the Caribbean, I became intrigued by the notion of the Fountain of Youth and the concept of immortality (but not intrigued enough to waste money on that movie).
What if a fountain of youth really did exist and you had a choice to become immortal? Would you drink from it? At first glance, it would seem like a great idea. Who wouldn’t want to live forever? I know I do. There’s so much to do in this world and so many different ways of doing it, that I would be first in line to drink the fountain of youth kool-aid. “Immortality, take it, it’s yours!” But wait. With such colossal consequences hanging in the balance, let’s have a pragmatic look at immortality before we jump in the pool, shall we? (This is probably the only time you’ll see the words pragmatic and immortality in the same sentence.)
Yes, life’s too short, but that’s because we know how long we have to live. We all come out with an expiry date, and while the dates vary, there is a date. And yes, I would say a lifespan of 80 years is way too short, especially when you consider all that stuff in the beginning and the end is pretty much useless, what you’re left with really is a 60-year chunk of change in which to play with. That’s peanuts. No wonder people are obsessed with immortality. But what those people are forgetting, and probably never considered, is that we’re not talking about living another hundred years or so, but forever.
Think about that for a second. Having no end in sight in anything is a scary thought. Marriage. The Post Office. The Pirates of the Caribbean franchise. Depression must inevitably set in. Yeah, I suppose the first hundred years would be pretty cool, as you slowly make your way around the world, explore different careers, personalities, learn new languages, and do everything and everyone you’ve ever wanted. And then what? Give homosexuality a try? Entertain a sex change to see how the other half lives? How would you spice up your eternal sex-life?
Imagine living millions of years! I can’t even fathom what that would be like, but I can assume I’d get pretty sick of life after a while. And we’re not talking about an idealized immortality like in a fictional heaven. We’re talking about living forever in this world, with all the hardships that come with it, all the scum and wrack of your day-to-day existence, the sea of pain and despair. Watching your loved ones die while you live. Could you bear it? How would you find the strength tomorrow to go on doing the same thing you did today and have been doing for much too long? What if you find that destiny is implacable, that you’ll be crushed by the dread of more and more inescapable tomorrows? I would argue that after a while, you would dream about and seek out the fountain of death.
What would be the meaning of a life that doesn’t end? With the absence of time, there would no longer be a use for goals, short-term or otherwise. Carpe Diem? What for? You’ll have infinite days to seize, so take it easy. We need deadlines to motivate us (pun intended), as evidenced in school, work, etc., and make no mistake, death is the ultimate deadline to get us to live.
And who’s to say you would even have the means to do everything you’ve always wanted?
Where will the money come from? You would still have to work, still make a living. Let’s say you were to drink from this mythical Fountain of Youth today, what would you do tomorrow? Well, I guess after you’ve calmed down and thought about it, and realized nothing has really changed, you would probably go to work. Life goes on. And on. And on. Some think just because they’ll have all the time in the world that their lives will magically transform into a better one, but immortality doesn’t guarantee you happiness. They confuse immortality with Godhood. Gods don’t have to pay rent, you do. Forever.
Having said all that, after carefully weighing the pros and cons, I would love the chance for eternal life. I could make it work. I’m a patient man. And lazy. I could lie around all day and do nothing. “I’m not being lazy, I’m just pacing myself,” is what I would say. There are a million things I want to do, and I would be fine if it took a million years to do them. I’d be okay with that. I’m sure I’d go through a depression era somewhere in there but that’s when I do my best work. Think how prolific my writing would be! But all that doesn’t matter. Because after a few thousand years, I suppose mankind would be destroyed by either machines, apes, aliens, or zombies, and I love all those things! Loved all those movies! So a toast! To immortality! Cheers!
– Tom Day