Like most people, I have a pretty strong survival instinct. But while I don’t want to die, I’m not sure that I want to live forever.
The Case For
Sure, living forever seems pretty attractive at first glance. You won’t, you know, die. Dying is often painful, unexpected, or otherwise unpleasant. If it can be avoided, so much the better.
Moreover, grief is a powerful, and often, devastating emotion. We have all experienced loss, and if you could live forever, you could spare your family and friends going through the grief they would feel at your passing.
Then, you’d never miss out on anything. Whatever amazing discoveries, whatever triumphs, whatever joys that await in the future, you would get to experience. First humans on Mars? Curing cancer? Your great-great-great grandchild getting married? Check, check, check.
The Case Against
All that sounds great, but there are significant downsides.
If you were the only immortal, then you would see everyone you love grow old and die, again and again and again.
But if somehow you could live forever, maybe everyone could. Maybe it is a scientific breakthrough. But in that case, there would be a serious resource problem.
Our planet currently supports more than seven billion people. Even at that number, we are threatening the future of our species and the entire eco-sphere. If none of those seven billion plus died, and babies continued to be born, we’d quickly run out of resources to sustain ourselves.
But maybe we colonize galaxy. We spread out among the stars, and find other planets with other resources. We make better use of the plentiful solar energy throughout the galaxy and the universe. Are there any other drawbacks to immortality?
Things have value to us because of scarcity. The gold standard works because gold is rare. Rainy days make sunny days better. Grief gives added meaning to joy.
If you lived forever, it is possible that life, as we know it, would lose meaning. It is our transitory time on this earth that gives our time here value. Our life matters precisely because we don’t live forever.
Or is that just a justification, designed to make us feel better about our inevitable end?
Would you want to live forever? Or is acceptable that our lives come to an end eventually?
Related questions: Why are people afraid of death? What do you want to do before you die? Past, present, or future? How can we appreciate life more?
2 thoughts on “Would You Want To Live Forever?”
What assumptions about health does this question make? Does one’s quality of life also expand with living forever? I have mission statements for each of the major roles I play in life. For my physical capacity, I, in part, note: “Live to an old age and age well. … Aspire to subtlety, mobility, fluidity, and ease.” Will these things be possible? What about intellectual acuity? Will I be able to remember and learn at at least my current capacity for the rest of time? The answers are relevant, and if the quality of life extends for infinity as well, I find a little allure.
I wonder: How wise can an individual become? How will certain hobbies in my life (e.g. gardening, blogging, reading, photography) withstand the test of time? Will future technologies allow or force me to take up new interests? Would the trials of boredom be erased by the capabilities of future technologies and challenges of future society?
While the questions about wisdom and erasing the trials of boredom make me ponder living forever, I still must say, no, I do not want to live infinitely. That’s because I assume that the question is posed to me as an individual, not to society at large. As Lee writes in the question’s context, “If you were the only immortal, then you would see everyone you love grow old and die, again and again, and again.” This, I would find too much to bear.
That said, I do feel that life is short. Too short. Could I steal a few decades more than my current natural life will bring me? I’d quite enjoy that.
I love this question! I’m 77 years old (seasoned), so I’m hoping for many more years on earth. I can see my physical body is aging so I’m more conscious of taking good care of it. I’ve added a trip to the gym one day a week to my schedule.
More interesting to me is what happens when our physical bodies die. My Christian faith tells me that there is a heaven, a hell, and a place called purgatory. I’m hoping and praying and believing in heaven for all of us.
A former Pastor told us that “God saves the best for last.” Holy Scripture tells us heaven is a paradise beyond our wildest dreams, so I’m looking forward to getting there, but not right now! 🙂