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?—
“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.