Are you going to live forever?
I’m not. Or at least, I see no evidence that I will. Or anyone else.
And yet the concept of living forever, of immortality, pervades our culture so much that it isn’t even a novelty any more. That’s understandable. The human mind can only conceive of so much. Ideas like “nothing” and “not existing” are too big to think about. I can’t imagine not existing.
But I can’t imagine living forever either. In that, the non-believer is unique. It’s quite easy for believers; Christians, Jews, Buddhists, Muslims, Mormons, Hindus, Scientologists, to embrace their own individual eternities. It’s even one of the selling points. Not just existing forever, but who has the best ‘forever’ to exist in.
Do these people have any idea of what ‘living forever’ would really mean? I think I do. And the best way I can explain it is through an example below the fold:
That’s right…I’m going to use a British sci-fi serial to help explain a complex theological concept.
Try and stay with me.
There are two main characters within the Whoniverse that are, essentially, immortal. These would be the eponymous Doctor and Captain Jack (Harkness, not Sparrow).
The Doctor is an alien. Through his unique Time Lord physiology, he has a way to cheat death any time he arrives at its doorstep. In what you could either consider a brilliant move or a cheap trick, the original writers designed it so that if The Doctor was on the verge of dying, he could ‘regenerate’. He literally changes every cell in his body, becoming a new man (and a new actor) in everything but name and mind.
All that nerdiness is simply there to say that that is how I would wish to live forever, if given the opportunity. Because to live forever your existence must eventually become a bore. That may take quite a while. Hundreds, thousands or millions of years, yes, but we’re dealing with eternity here! A million years is a second when dealing with something like forever.
The Doctor, however, gets variety no matter how long his life goes on. He may have done things before, seen things before, but with every regeneration he is seeing them through brand new eyes. Literally!
Now look at Captain Jack.
Through an accident with a near-omnipotently powered friend (this is sci-fi, remember?), Jack can’t die. Well, he can, but he can’t stay dead. Any time he is killed, his body ceases to function for a few seconds to a few minutes, and then he comes right back as if nothing happened. Couple that with the fact that he is a man from our future who is accidentally thrown into our past, with no choice but to merely live through the time that makes up the difference.
Jack, in my mind, embodies the religious view of eternal life. Forced to go on living, made to go through things over and over and over again. Maybe not with the same exact people, perhaps not under the same precise circumstances, but it is still all the same. Jack only manages through it because he lives in a world of science-fiction, with aliens and monsters and time-travel to keep him occupied.
While the real world is easily as amazing as the Whoniverse, with eternity on your hands you’ll eventually have seen everything.
So you can keep your immortality. It sounds tempting at first, but when you break it down you’re just being forced to watch the same episode over and over and over.
Give me a good long life with adventures, dangers, learning and a companion or two. And give me the sense to recognize that while it all may be over when I’m gone, I made the best of it while I was here.
Let’s not end it before the next season of Doctor Who, though, shall we?