Post No.: 0729
Life is just a series of projects – to maybe get married, raise a family, write a blog(!), finish a videogame, run a marathon, or just make tonight’s din-dins… and it feels like death deprives us of the chance to complete any more. It’s especially sad to see someone young die because of what we feel they (and mayhap the world) were robbed the opportunity of. (I wonder what dance bangers we’ve missed every summer since Avicii’s untimely passing.)
Perhaps it’s just a feeling though, thus we don’t have to feel that way? Just like we don’t have to feel despair for the time and opportunities we missed for not having been born earlier. Our desires to complete any more projects are foiled, which suggests that if we want to feel happier then we need to let go of desire. Or at least hold onto our desires less firmly. Our bodies have certain physical needs like getting enough oxygen, food, water and warmth (and these needs aren’t unlimited), whereas the harms from psychological deprivation are subjective and therefore perchance optional.
Acknowledging our mortality and the finity of life may prompt us to accept that some things will have to be left unaccomplished whether we like it or not. But we can then focus on what matters, like the present journey. Accepting the inevitability of passing away can prompt us to put our priorities straight during what limited time we have left. This time is not to be wasted – so seize the present!
Well you could try to live in the present – as in always in the present without ever setting future hopes or dreams (like maybe how the simplest organisms live) – yet you wouldn’t be human if so. You also cannot always live each day as if it were the last because you’d have no money left for tomorrow. And if you complete your bucket list – what then? It’d be natural to keep adding to it, but that would just incessantly add more projects and things to desire that might never get fulfilled. Wouldn’t it therefore be nice to simply be immortal and live forever?
For a thought experiment then – let’s wonder what it’d be like if you lived forever as an immortal?..
Okay, strict eternity would disputably mean that you’d fulfil every scenario that’s possible (both pleasant and unpleasant) an infinite number of times (unless at some point a particular thing becomes impossible). So, if you were immortal – wouldn’t you eventually get bored of life after, perhaps, a mere billion years (which is nothing compared to forever)?
Also, if you did do everything so many times then nothing would become significant or special – for instance, if you love a million lovers then no lover will mean much to you. It’s like if every word were shouted then none would stand apart. (In fact, in this case, if you highlighted every word except one – that word would be the one that stands out.) So if we literally had it all – if all that could happen will happen eventually – life will arguably end up oddly pointless and empty; devoid of anything special. What would be precious, urgent or intense if time was infinite and risk was absent? In economics, it’s scarcity and risk that gives products or investments their value. Air is technically valuable for all air-breathing creatures but its economic value doesn’t reflect that for those of us living on the Earth’s surface right now.
If we instead acknowledge that a loved one or possession can one day, possibly tomorrow, suddenly disappear because they’re not immortal – it’ll help us to treasure them even more right now before the last opportunity to do so passes us by. We’ll know we shouldn’t take them for granted. Accepting their limited nature will also mitigate the shock for us when they do depart.
Whatever we love or crave, we’ll some day get it if we are immortal, but we’ll eventually get bored of it. We could do something else then, but we’ll eventually get bored of that, and so on. We could possibly return back to our first love one day, but after returning for the trillionth time, get bored with even the notion of going back. Thus in due course – well within the time span of forever – we’ll get bored of life itself. Eventually, there’ll be nothing novel to excite us anymore. Even currently hitherto yet-imagined new activities will one day run out because what we’ll be limited by is by what’s possible. (Despite the popular saying – most things, if our imaginations are prolific, are impossible according to the laws of physics; at least those that have been empirically observed to date.) Joy would eventually dissipate from our life.
Meanwhile, the upshot of being mortal is that the finiteness of life is what makes love, ambitions, the present or anything precious. We’d even lose our sense of identity if we did literally everything and therefore had every title. (What identity does an object described as ‘everything’ have, without using circular arguments?) All the things that are worthwhile in your life draw their meaning from the fact that you’ll die. So we need death in order to live with the appreciation of value!
What’s the understanding of light without darkness, or beauty without horror, or happiness without melancholy, hot without cold, or indeed life without death? Woof.
All right, some activities will have limited opportunities and time to do because at some point in cosmological terms they’ll no longer be possible to do (e.g. Earth itself isn’t going to last forever, although other equivalent planets will form and/or have formed out there, although they’ll in time disappear too). But in this case, if we strictly cannot die and must live forever – as in we’re immortal and invincible – then we’ll, one day, become bored to death (figuratively speaking) for the rest of the eternity once the hypothesised heat death of the universe arrives! Therefore either way, we’ll eventually get bored of living.
Okay then, our brains – as limited-size physical objects – are logically physically limited in the number of neurons and combinations of connections it can form hence we don’t have an infinite capacity for forming new memories. Therefore, once it reaches its maximum capacity, new memories may necessarily push out old under-visited memories, which will mean any forgotten experiences will periodically become essentially fresh and novel to us again during our immortal existence. Hence is forgetting, as long as we have no problem forming new memories (unlike with dementia), a kind of reincarnation?
But like the claims of forgotten past lives – to what extent are those forgotten lives our lives if we cannot remember them at all? From our present perspective, they might as well never have happened if we cannot remember them. What’s ‘being immortal’ if we forget our past selves, never mind past lives?
Or if this is what we’d be happy with then isn’t this what’ll happen to us in our present mortal lives anyway since the matter from our corpses will become incorporated into some other living creature that recycles our atoms, and so on and on? If this is what being immortal means then we’re, in principle, immortal already!
Cyborg implants or some other future tech could allow us to expand our memory capacities – although still not infinitely (just because spacetime may be infinite, it doesn’t mean matter will be in infinite supply). And if we were to modify and ‘evolve ourselves’ so much – at what point should we consider ourselves a ‘new’ being? And if we’ll become a new being, will that mean the old us has died? If so, is this technically living forever or just continually living and dying? Yet if a core of us always remains constant then it might be regarded as one contiguous life whilst making immortality bearable?
Perhaps, rather than being immortal and invincible (as in we cannot die naturally or otherwise) – we could choose to die once we personally feel bored of life after, say, a million years? We don’t want to live forever per se – just not die now.
Or would this be no different to choosing to commit suicide or seek euthanasia after, say, 50 years in our present mortal lives, whether out of desperation or clear thinking, if one feels bored or otherwise unwilling to carry on with life after this smaller timescale?
Damn trying to combine the subjects of philosophy, current best-guess science and possible future technologies(!) My wee furry noggin hurts. :S
…Our expiration is treated like a foe that must be fought against and defeated. But maybe this isn’t the right approach? Maybe we should learn to make better peace with it instead? (Post No.: 0704 even wondered if we should be afraid of the state of being dead?)
When does a doctor’s job switch from prolonging life to supporting a good death? The extension of one’s life isn’t the same as one’s quality of life due to being subjected to aggressive experimental treatments. So this isn’t necessarily about assisted dying. We want our loved ones to have a tranquil, not tortured, passing – hence decisions cannot just be left to medical professionals (or they must learn that life extension cannot come at all costs).
If you get cancer – maybe ask, “Why not me?” Getting suddenly and swiftly instakilled versus knowing one will perish in, say, 12 months henceforth both have their pros and cons. The former will cause little pain or anguish but offer no chance of saying goodbye, preparing a time capsule for one’s growing kids, or spending those last days ticking off items from one’s bucket list. The latter may cause foreboding but will allow us to write the final chapter of the story of our life how we’ll want it completed instead of have it abruptly end.
These preferences will be different for different individuals – so there certainly mustn’t be duress placed on the terminally ill to feel positive or brave about their own experiences of dying. We’ll feel how we feel, otherwise it’d just add to the misery by feeling like a failure if one happens to not feel positive or brave about it. At the extreme, where there are toxic levels of belief that positive thinking or ‘manifestation’ is the answer to getting whatever one desires – a person might even start to blame themselves for becoming terminally ill, as if it was their ‘negative energy’ that caused their condition or their shortage of ‘positive thinking’ that’s causing the lack of a forthcoming cure.
The imposed narrative of the ‘brave battle’ foisted upon the terminally ill is really to keep those around such ill people happy – to serve the comfort of the living. But it puts pressure on the person facing death to not show pain or fear, which is an unfair burden on an already devastated patient. Comments like, “Don’t give up” or noting that someone else survived a similar condition because, “They were a fighter”, and a belief that positive thinking will bring good health, places blame on the dying person – as if they’ll have simply lacked grit if they die. It alienates them from exploring the deep richness that acceptance can bring.
Positive thoughts can psychologically help to a degree but others cannot insist it and ‘believing in yourself’ isn’t a cure for terminal illnesses. (People have even fatally stopped their medications to demonstrate the amount of faith they possess in beating whatever disease they have.) Many things aren’t in our control, and there’s a certain peace with accepting this because to accept our own predicament in an authentic way doesn’t mean giving up but means not wasting our limited time and energy on petty things.
Woof! You can use the Twitter comment button below to share what you think about whether it’d be amazing to be immortal (and invincible) or whether we should simply learn to make better peace with our finitude?