I sure as heck don’t want to live forever! In fact, I so much don’t want to live forever that I don’t think about it. The only reason it’s on my mind now is that the title of this post was the blog prompt for today.
To be honest, I can’t think of anyone granted immortality who was pleased with the dubious gift. Of course, these “anyone”s who were granted such a gift are by nature fictitious, since as far as I know, there is no living creature who lives forever. Well, this is a certain jellyfish that can revert to an earlier stage of their lifecycle, which can keep them going forever. Amoebas are considered immortal because they divide in two and so the parent doesn’t die but exists as two daughter cells. And then there are prions . . .
Okay, so there are living things that live forever, but except for the case of a stray alchemist or two (such as the Count of St. Germaine who supposedly found the philosopher’s stone and so attained immortality) the only humans who have become immortal on Earth are fictional ones. And those stories seldom end well.
For example, a long time ago I heard a theory that humans were a sort of preternatural ape embryo that managed to continue developing without ever turning into an ape. To support their supposition, theorists pointed to such human characteristics as hairless bodies, wide-spaced eyes, large heads, and a tendency to play that extends far beyond childhood. A short story based on this theory featured a scientist who found a way to become immortal, and instead of having a great life, he was eventually discovered living as an aged ape in his basement. Apparently, he lived long enough so that he grew out of his embryonic state. Not a pleasant way to live forever!
Vampires live forever, but those fangs, red lips and pallid skin are so not a good look. Sleeping in a coffin and never seeing the sun seems like a recipe for a massive year-round case of Seasonal Affective Disorder. And that lust for blood? Let’s not even go there.
One of the biggest cautionary tales for not living forever is the movie Death Becomes Her. After being granted immortal life, both Goldie Hawn and Meryl Streep do not heed the advice to take care of themselves, so they spend the rest of eternity trying to put themselves together. That’s enough to make a person shudder! (Except not really. This is the only role Meryl Streep ever did that I enjoyed.)
From a reader’s point of view, living forever would be untenable. Can you imagine reading a book that never ends? That goes on and on long after you got tired of what would soon become nothing but a series of insipid events? What a horrendously boring book that would be! Living an earthly life forever would be the same. Assuming, of course, that you could remain young and healthy and rich enough to keep yourself going century after century after century. Unless you were like the immortal jellyfish and could reset your cells back to an earlier time, you would grow older. And older. And older. And older. Ad infinitum. Eventually you would be too old to appreciate anything, would be ready to be shucked of your worthless body and decaying mind and would still find no surcease. And chances are, you’d get sick or break bones or get some sort of debilitating disease, and there would be no blessed release to your pain. Who knows, you might even end up in jail with a life sentence, and then, what a horror story that would be!
Even assuming that you managed to stay free and young and healthy and rich forever, then what? There would be no reason to do anything. As writers, we know how important a ticking clock is. Without a ticking clock to impel a character to solve the mystery or reach the end of a quest or whatever, there wouldn’t be much of a story. I imagine life without a ticking clock would be much the same. There’d be no reason to do anything. Of course, perhaps even for centuries, you could travel and learn and try all sorts of new experiences, and once that’s all done, then what? Eternal boredom?
Luckily, this is merely a rhetorical question, though millions, perhaps billions of dollars are being spent every year to unlock the mystery of mortality. Some scientists theorize that immortality was once the default state, and that death was “naturally selected for,” as they say, because apparently death conferred some sort of benefit on a species where individuals could die. (After all, evolution is not about a single organism but a species.)
Anyway, all that being said, would you want to live forever?
Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator.