Feb 05

Immortality, Yes or No?

In Brief—An examination of the age-old philosophical question of whether you would choose to live forever or die as normal mortals do.


Is Everlasting Life Worth It?—

eternity-hourglass“Tuck Everlasting” is Natalie Babbitt’s thoughtful novel that raises the question posed by a fountain of youth that confers everlasting life on those who drink its waters.

Ten-year-old Winnie Foster meets the Tuck family who are frozen at the ages when they drank from the waters that bubble forth from a spring beneath an ancient tree in the forest. The youngest son, Jesse, prevents the thirsty girl from quenching her thirst. Telling her his unbelievable story, he urges her to wait until she is his age so they can be married and live forever in marital bliss. The rest of the family convince her of the truth of the little spring and their lives. Of course, there are complications, but the question remains: Would you choose everlasting life or not?

Questions Before Choosing—

  • Assuming immortality were possible and you could choose any age for yourself, at what age would you drink the elixir? Why?
  • Where would you choose to live? Country? City or rural?
  • Would you marry and whom? Children?
  • What would you study and what profession, if any, would you choose?
  • What political party would you choose?
  • Who would you tell?

Possible Positive Considerations—

  • You get to see how conditions and your predictions turn out.
  • Depending on your chosen age, you would presumably be at the height of your physical and mental condition.
  • You would be attractive to those interested in mating with you.
  • You could hone your skills and education making you more employable.
  • You would be impervious to death regardless of any risks you might take.

Now pause for a moment and consider how you answered each issue before you go on.

Reality Rears Its Ugly Head—

The above questions and possible advantages of immortality are by no means the only ones capable of being raised. Nevertheless, here are some aspects that might influence your answers.

  • Assuming you drank the elixir at any age of your choosing, if you were a child or an older person, remember you would be frozen at that age forever. Too young and you may not be of voting age or virile; too old and there are those aches and pains with you forever.
  • No matter where you chose to live, city or rural, your neighbors and the people where you bought stuff would begin to wonder why they were aging and you weren’t. The religious among them might even begin to think you had made a pact with the devil.
  • If you settle down with a partner and particularly if children come along, they would age while you stayed the same. This could drive a wedge in your relationships and would impact both you and them emotionally.
  • Should you keep the elixir a secret from your loved ones or friends? If you tell them, would they tell others? Might certain groups (e.g., the wealthy or privileged) want to hog the elixir for just themselves?
  • Would Earth become crowded by people who live forever and demand food and services?
  • Professions would be in less (or more) demand with the advent of technology, automation and political pressures. Your studies would vary according to the demands of the market.
  • Will the political party you choose change? Will the country of your residence become authoritarian or open?
  • Now remember that each aspect mentioned above is impacted by immortality.

In “Tuck Everlasting,” the father looks at a dead man with envy. Think about that.

I recall the story “The Country of the Blind” in which the narrator learns that his eyes are considered by the inhabitants of the hidden valley to be a curse. Is immortality a curse?

The moral to this exercise is that you should be careful what you wish for, you just might get it.

The Weekly Sampler—

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Go to the Archives on the right side. Click on November 2013


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    • Dave Meyers on February 6, 2017 at 07:21

    I have no interest in living forever.
    I’d actually rather go back a few hundred years in time knowing what I know now……can you imagine that?

    It is said that every man dies three times:
    First….at the time of his physically death.
    Second….when no one alive knew him personally.
    And Third…..when his name is no longer uttered on the earth.

    You can’t stop the first….so make many many friends….and do great and notable things !

      • Don Bay on February 6, 2017 at 16:15

      The pitfalls of eternal life are obvious, but what about traveling back in time? It’s been said that even the slightest change in the past could mean that you no longer exist. Hell, put that aside and think about your parents never meeting or with your present parents deciding to have no children.

      Face it, we’re stuck with what we have now, so eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we die…and, as you say, make many friends and do notable things. But wait a minute, didn’t Hitler do notable things?

        • Kathy on February 7, 2017 at 00:08

        No, no, no. This is an outdated idea of time. Quantum physics suggests an infinity of pasts, presents and futures. If you went back and time and changed something, you would only create a new timestream. Do something to cause one or both of your parents to die before creating you? A new timestream is created in which you didn’t exist. But since you patently DO exist, since you were able to go back and make this change, the timestream in which your parents lived to produce you remains. Once you think in terms of infinite possibilities always changing and branching, all the “paradoxes” of time travel disappear.

        Of course, the fact remains that we’re (currently) unable to travel through time, other than forward, or in our minds, so it’s a moot point.

          • Don Bay on February 7, 2017 at 06:32

          You’ve answered your own question in your last paragraph.

          Being familiar with quantum physics and the multiple universes theory, I point out that these are not just suppositions based on speculation (though interesting) but we are locked into this universe where time moves forward. See your final point above. Based on reality in this universe, I stick with my position stated to Dave Meyers.

  1. This is fascinating. I won’t make any choices for the purpose of responding, but you have posed very interesting questions. When I was young I was strong and virile and ambitious but I didn’t have a real heart. Now I am old and have many pains but I have a good heart. I clearly would choose a good heart over the other things. And as I write this I’m reminded of your “Heart” .posting and maybe in light of that “heart” has no meaning here. I would be kind and loving and caring rather than having the physical characteristics. And would the characteristics I choose do me in good stead in this imaginary world?

    Thanks for tweaking this question.

      • Don Bay on February 6, 2017 at 16:25

      I can’t understand the last part of your comment other than being kind and loving. Showing my cynical side, can a sado-masochist be kind and loving if s/he delivers pain to another sado-masochist? Is that kind and loving?

      As I said to Dave, we’re stuck with what we have, so let’s try to leave the world better for our having been here…or something like that.

      Anyhow, the book raises an interesting question: is eternal life a wise choice?

    • Kathy on February 7, 2017 at 00:18

    I touch on this question in my Land of Enchantment books. My wizards aren’t immortal, but they’re very long-lived, to the tune of centuries. They often find it isolating, and have to go to great lengths to fit into the world of ordinary mortals. Making themselves appear to age, having to fake their deaths and start all over again…

    The upside is that they get to keep whatever wealth they’ve accumulated, and they get the benefits of age (wisdom, insight, stability) without the aches and pains. I could go for that if I had the power to protect myself. Not so much if I didn’t. It would be a drag to be always on the run like Adaline in “The Age of Adaline.” Complete immortality seems like it would get very wearying.

      • Don Bay on February 7, 2017 at 06:39

      Although I haven’t read “The Age of Adeline,” your wizards have the best of both worlds: semi-immortality and eventual death. You are right, immortality would be very wearying. In “Tuck Everlasting,” the immortal man looks with envy on a dead man.

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