“Who Wants to Live Forever” isn’t just a great Queen song, it’s a legitimate question. If you could, would you want to live forever? So far, humans have a 100% mortality rate, but that might not always be the case. There are scientists, engineers, and tech gurus working hard to eliminate death.
Last Sunday, I facilitated a Death Talk at Wishbone Collective for Public Philosophy Week. My topic was, “Is There Life Without Death: Can One Truly Live While Trying to Outrun Death?” In researching my topic, I made several interesting discoveries.
The Transhumanism Movement is alive and growing within the United States. Transhumanists believe that emerging technologies can enhance human intellect and physiology to expand the human lifespan to 122 years or more. Even more bold, biotech firm Calico, a Google subsidiary, states that its mission is to cure death. There is no shortage of people interested in expanding – or preserving – their life. Alcore Life Extension Foundation in Scottsdale, AZ, has over 1000 members who have made arrangements for cryopreservation, which is a process upon death where the body is cooled with liquid nitrogen and stored with the hope that new medical technologies will be available to reanimate it in the future. (Thanks to Seven Ponds Blog for much of this information.)
It’s true that death enhancing or eliminating technology is not, yet, available. But even if it were, would you want to live longer…… or forever?
At our Death Talk, we discussed whether living forever would devalue the gift of life. If there were no limit on our years, would life become boring? Would the human motivation to create and learn be diminished by the knowledge that there is always another tomorrow? And what about the practical questions….. Where would we live? How long would we work? Could the planet even sustain us? Would we become immortal only to end up suffering?
While most of us are probably not making plans to be cryopreserved, there are less dramatic ways we try to outrun death. Our culture shuns wrinkles and gray hair. There are multi-million dollar industries of plastic surgery, wrinkle cream, and hair dye. When we reach a new age milestone, we often well-meaningly proclaim – 60 is the new 40! And, when the inevitable comes, the dying process is often institutionalized as people are taken to hospitals, hospices, and, ultimately, to the funeral home.
I’ve never been presented with the option, but if I were I don’t think I would choose to live forever. I believe that the value of life comes through its limitations. I don’t want to die – yet – and I don’t want to lose my loved ones to death, but I believe there is something beautiful in accepting the inevitability of death. Each life is precious and finite. This is why I so enjoy working with people in marking their life transitions – honoring each unique life – from birth to death and all the cherished moments in between.