Saturday, April 25, 2015

The Problem with Living Forever

The conversation started one late night (or very early morning) in the summer of 1994. I was unemployed, between my freshmen and sophomore year at Kansas State, stuck between art and English education. My best friend and I spent those long summer nights driving aimlessly through our small, sleepy hometown. We played amatuer philosopher during those drives, questioning God, the universe, everything.

"I don't want to live forever," I said.

"Neither do I. Not on Earth, anyway."

"No," I said, "I don't want to go to heaven either. I mean, that's just nuts. Forever is a long time."

My friend laughed. "It's not like heaven's just clouds and harps and shit. I don't think you understand what it would be like."

No, it's not like that at all. I've seen death in my life--death and a lot of change. I remember every one of my grandparents' funerals, my father's, my first wife's. I remember standing in the basement of the Warren-McElwain mortuary in Lawrence, KS deciding on a casket for my wife at age 37.

The funeral director, a relatively young woman herself, stopped in mid sales pitch/product description, and said, "You're too young for this."

Yes, and no. And maybe. 

Death is a part of life. Our mortality is what binds us together, and to rob anyone of death is to steal the very essence of what it means to be human. Death is not the worst thing to come for us. Death is our oldest friend. Death reminds us to live, to enjoy, to laugh and have fun, and to love well. Death taught me well from a young age. This is what is the end to which we all must go. This is what gives value and rarity to your life.

I've carried those lessons with me. I have no desire to live forever--and I fear immortality in world not built for it much more than my own death. Maybe heaven isn't harps and clouds and "shit." Maybe I can't comphrended immortality. I do know this: on Earth, I'm happy my time is limited.

It's much more valuable this way.

1 comment:

Sicky said...

Immortality has always been a long standing fear of mine. As humans, it's impossible for us to comprehend the term "forever", as it doesn't exist in our realm. We've never experienced anything that does not end. Therefore, it's not possible for us to truly understand it. That's a basic fear in, as far as I know, every human being on this planet. Fear of the unknown. Fear of something we can't understand. For me, being of a fairly strong Christian faith, the idea brings so many mixed feelings. In the end, though, I see it the same way you do. Life is much more valuable when you know that it will end at some point, and you make it worth a lot more when you use it to the best of your abilities.

As a side note, I was looking for some books and remembered your collection on Amazon. It brought me to your blog, which I'll admit, I haven't read in quite a while. I think you should use your blog more often. You made an impact on me when I was in your class my senior year. I feel like there are more out there who could be struck by your words, also.