I'm going to live forever. Everyone knows it. By everyone, I mean my wife and kids. And any friends who happen to have heard my wife and kids poke fun at my absurd proclamation. It's become my mantra of late. As I slipped out of my forties. When the subject of death comes up, which it does from time to time, I remind my family that I plan to go on living and living… forever. Do I really want to live forever? I have no idea. I've never spent any time thinking about it, until now.
all its allure, immortality is not something modern people are drawn
to. Back in the day, that would be centuries ago, explorers launched
extravagant quests in search of the Fountain of Youth. But life was
less certain, more tenuous. People died from ailments considered
minor today. Infections, injury, even child birth was a large risk.
Now, we are much more likely to live a long life, seventy or eighty
years unless we are unlucky. Perhaps that's all people are looking
for. They don't want to live forever, just enough time to complete
is a fairly limited list of movies and books on the topic of
immortality. As entertainment genres go, Science Fiction tops my
list. Not outer-space and fantasy world stuff. But character stories
rooted in science and the fantastic. If immortality books were
common, I'd be reading them. I can only think of a few. Jitterbug
Perfume, The Thief of Time, Sacre Bleu, Doctor Sleep. Movies?
Highlander... anything else? I must be missing dozens, but the point
is that these stories are scarce, certainly not mainstream.
as a society are much more obsessed with dying. Zombies, economic
collapse, nuclear war, alien invasion, plagues. Post-Apocalyptic.
It's everywhere. I've read it all. I was reading PA before it was
even a genre. Earth Abides, George Stewart's 1949 masterpiece on how
a community moves on after a mysterious ailment kills all but a few.
This is still the best of the class, and I have read it four or five
times. Lucifer's Hammer. Thirty years old. Larry Niven and Jerry
Pournelle's tale about the preparation and aftermath of a comet
strike. Now every other book I see on the new fiction shelf has
apocalyptic themes. But these books really aren't about dying, they
are about surviving. And that is somewhere on the linear curve
towards immortality, I suppose.
is easy to be obsessed with the apocalypse. It is ingrained in our
thinking. Christianity and Islam both predict end-times, a period of
tribulation, a judgment day. Especially prominent in the Mormon
Church, each LDS family is expected to store a year of food to help
ride out the tribulation. Predictably, I've read about that
tribulation. Tim LeHaye and Jerry Jenkins wrote a twelve book series
about the non-believers -- those too late to Christianity to
participate in the Rapture -- surviving through the final years of
earth. It's no party. Plagues, earthquakes, the anti-Christ. But it's
exciting. Most of the series, I found myself feeling sorry for the
Christians who were spared the trouble of the tribulation. They
missed out on a lot of the cool stuff.
know that this is a funny perspective, but that's why we read the
books in the first place. I've read about communities rebuilding from
disaster. Over and over. Similar themes, similar stories. All this
reading, some of it sticks. These aren't just tales. They are
blue-prints for survival. Survival of a disaster that will ultimately
come. And it will come. It has come in the past. Disease,
comet-strikes, super-volcanoes, ice-ages. Sooner or later,
eventually, in the future, it will come. My future?
mental health issues, OCD and Anxiety Disorder, cause me to dwell on
events I cannot control. The Apocalypse is one of them. For years, I
would lie awake at night planning my survival, my family's survival.
Like the Latter Day Saints, I stored food and water. I made elaborate
plans to stock-pile cash. During a bird-flu outbreak half a world
away, I bought a huge box of surgical masks. I still have them. They
are at the top of my closet. Unopened, probably dry-rotting. I've
considered buying some guns. I hate guns. They scare the hell out of
me. I hate them almost as much as I hate cigarettes. But I started
thinking that no one can survive tribulation without a rifle and a
never finalized my disaster preparations. Reality intervened. I
bought a book called "When All Hell Breaks
Loose: Stuff You Need To Survive When Disaster Strikes" At first
I found it depressing. I learned that I wasn't prepared. There was
too much to do. And then it became enlightening, freeing. Reading
that book made me realize that the only thing that will help my
family and me survive the apocalypse is luck. My wife and I,
we have no skills in a post-apocalyptic world. We can't fix
machinery, we've never hunted, we're crappy farmers. Our property,
a shady quarter acre could never support a family. Our kids are just
getting to an age where they would be of any useful help. If we ever
lose power for an extended period of time, even our basement will
flood. Our house sits on an underground lake. Sump pumps run
regularly. We’re just not cut from the survivalist mold.
took a while to realize it happened. I started branching out in my
reading. Still skews towards sci-fi, but much less PA. I stopped
worrying about every new disease outbreak in Asia. Stopped freaking
out when CNN reported new enteroviruses and brain eating amoebas. I
acknowledge the coming environmental catastrophes, but I no longer
worry about how I can mitigate them.
when Ebola inevitably made it to the United States, I was no more
worried than my wife. Certainly not losing sleep over it. I've come
to realize, even to embrace, that death is part of life. My spiritual
beliefs tell me that we've all died before, and we'll all die again.
And each life we live is one step closer to Nirvana, to perfection.
Which is where true immortality exists.