who wants to live for ever…?

I used to passionately desire immortality. I would argue its benefits: the ability to experience so much more, to achieve so much more, to produce so much more artistic work. I wanted this so much that I remember getting quite manic reading Raymond Kurzweil who believes that we’re on the verge of being capable of halting ageing – and that, once this is achieved, it would only be a matter of time before rejuvenation became technologically available – and youthful immortality would become a reality. He is pursuing this dream so hard that, each day, he consumes a smörgåsbord of pills: vitamins, anti-oxidants, etc…

When I emerged from 5 years of gestalt therapy, I no longer desired immortality. Why should that be? Well, it seems to me that the reason is because I had ‘slain my demons’ – or at least come to an accommodation with them. I am now pretty certain that the pressure for immortality came from a realization that I had these demons to deal with; had been on the planet for 40 years and, in that time, I had made no progress whatsoever with them. On this basis, projecting forward, it was obvious – to my unconscious – that it was going to take an infinitely long time to deal with them. Thus the need for immortality.

The quest for immortality now seems to me not only hubristic, but another example of how out of touch with reality we have become. Here we are on a planet that is not really capable of supporting our population as it is, and that will soon have to support 2 billion more – and Mr Kurzweil is proposing that people (no doubt the rich) should stop dying… It is utterly, utterly insane!

And then I read an interview with Kurzweil in which he was bemoaning that he had never got over his father dying and that he wants to bring him back to life. I am with Jung on this… beyond midlife, the purpose of living becomes to accept loss – and in that loss to find individual fulfilment. To everything there is a season. Without death, I believe that life becomes essentially pointless – a ship at sea with no course or destination…

10 thoughts on “who wants to live for ever…?

  1. An advantage of immortality would be the possibility to see what is going to happen to humanity. Only one immortal would be required, me for example :), but most likely the boredom would kill me after some centuries. I’d really like to know if we’ll be able to learn from our mistakes and evolve, i know it doens’t look good at the moment, but maybe.
    As for _everyone_ becoming immortal: due to bad politics concerning pensions, we in germany already have the problem that people live too long…

    1. I share your curiosity about the future… but, as you say, so much of the world is already suffering badly because too many people are living too long… As for being immortal – I think that it’s probable that our brains only have a capacity for storing the information appropriate to one lifetime. And, by “lifetime” I mean fewer years than what many people are living for now – I myself am, perhaps, beginning to feel the effects of that *grin*… So that, an immortal would probably have newer experiences ‘overwriting’ older memories… This could occur in various ways. Most likely, there would come a time when you would no longer have a single memory from your earlier past. In other words, you would become a wholly different person…

  2. The concept of immortality also has to be couple with the (several) definitions of that it is “life” and “to be alive”.

    John C. Wright’s The Golden Age trilogy, a veritable sci-fi monument, creates this our world where immortality is more about the maintenance of the self – which in his books can be acheived through computers – or replacement/update of the body rather than maintenance of the same body.

    I, too, once longed for immortality. But even not counting the resource managment problems you point out, in true immortality there is a MAJOR risk of ultimate boredom. And that, I dislike. (This is something from which all religions who promise eternal life suffer: you get eternal life and the inability to die. Scary!)

    1. hmmm… If an Immortal were to possess a body, then I can’t really see how he/she would be unable to die… after all, he/she could dive into a pool of acid… If the Immortal had ‘migrated’ his/her mind into some artificial construct, then death could be achieved by isolating this construct (to avoid a further migration) then destroying the construct and any ‘backups’…

      As for boredom, if there were a limit to memory, then the Immortal would be continuously becoming a new person – and that sounds like it could well be interesting. Or else, after a ‘standard’ lifespan they would begin to, continuously, turn into a kind of being that has never lived: ie. a human of 120+ years… who knows what would bore such a being… But we don’t even have to go as far as this – it seems to me that the circumstances we’re discussing have already happened… Relative to how long people used to live, many modern humans live far longer – and of these, some are bored and some are not – and the reason for this is likely to be personality, education etc… For all these reasons, I see no necessity whatsoever why an Immortal would necessarily get bored…

      1. I clarify: I was talking about immortality in the same sense you were. When you mentioned you’d need an infinite amount of time to deal with the issues at hand, you were assuming a psychological continuity, a continued sense of identity, otherwise the problems would just go away. Also, I meant immortality acquired by techological prowess, not an immortal as in the TV series – so diving into a pool of acid would kill the person, but a backup would be available to resume at the same identity continuum point (likewise, destruction of all copies would entail ultimate death). So, in that sense, the aforementioned immortal would indeed run the risk of being bored – not in a thousand years, not in a billion years, but perhaps in a thousand billion years…

        Now to the point: I do agree with the conclusion that immortality is dangerous/more troublesome than it seems, but more from a psychological standpoint than one to do with resources. As you know, current scarcity (of food) is market-created, not production-created.

        1. what TV series?? As for getting bored in “a thousand billion years” I have to smile :O) – the very notion that we could fathom the mental state of a being of such age?!?! I just can’t imagine that anything as ‘human’ as boredom could survive such a span of time…
          For a human, it seems to me that immortality is terra incognita… as for resources… that’s another immense topic… and not for now – I HAVE to get some work done *grin*

          1. Sorry, by TV series and the context I meant, of course, The Highlander; which in Portuguese was called “Os Imortais”.

            The thing is that boredom (l’ennui) is very much human, just because it is what reminds the human that s/he too is an animal, and thus it seems to me that boredom would be maybe the single most dangerous thing presented to an immortal being. I mean, let us turn to Christianism *gasp* – even God got bored and decided to play around with stuff.

            Profound boredom, drifting here and there in the abysses of our existence like a muffling fog, removes all things and men and oneself along with it into a remarkable indifference. This boredom reveals being as a whole.“, Martin Heidegger, from Wikipedia. Also, I invite you to skim through this, it is deeply interesting, and I kept thinking about it when reading about the sartlar.

            Yes, I do seem to distract you as of late, my apologies *grin*. Wouldn’t want to have to wait longer for another one of your excellent books! 😀

          2. ah, I’ve never watched that series – though I quite liked the films… hmmm… I’ve never considered ‘boredom’ with such intensity… I’m afraid I could only skim it… and this was not enough to see how it might be related to the sartlar… and though you may be distracting me a little, man does not live by writing alone… :O)

          3. It wasn’t just that part of the book, although it certainly relates to it: there was an ultimate boredom, an ultimate waiting gripping and holding the sartlar untill the very end. But the whole book I linked was about the difference (or lack thereof) between man and animal. Quite fitting for the sartlar.

            This is me shutting up now!

          4. ok – I see what you mean. Makes sense… No need to shut up – I like such chat… and if I don’t want to talk I will simply remain silent :O)

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