I woke up this morning thinking about death.
Not my own, don’t worry. I’m fine.
These thoughts originally arose because of a coming plot twist in my webserial. But no matter. That’s not what I’m talking about here.
I woke up thinking about how good death is.
Let’s say we invent immortality tomorrow (which, I’ve been led to understand, we may be in danger of doing). At some point, we’d all get bored — no new ideas, no new movements, no new generations, just the same old people living and living and living and living. Might take 10,000 years. Or 100,000 years. But eventually we’d want to die. I try not to take my philosophical talking points from pulp fiction, but I can’t help but think of Robert E. Howard’s immortal race of sorcerers, each of whom, one day, wakes up and decides it’s time to throw himself off a cliff. And nobody is surprised. That’s no good.
In the above I’m assuming, by the way, that we stop reproducing when we become immortal. I hope we do! Otherwise, though we’ll have new generations and new ideas, we’ll also fill up the planet, the solar system, the galaxy, and the universe in fairly short (for an immortal’s definition of “short”) order: deathless couple gives birth to deathless children who do the same in turn, and so do their children, and so on. That’s no good.
Or maybe we ration out immortality, give it only to a few — I guess using money, the way we manage all other scarce resources, as the gateway to godhood. That’s no good.
What do we mean by “immortal” anyway? Do we really mean that each and every one of us would be around for the heat death of the universe, floating in what’s left of space, gasping for air that doesn’t exist (though we can’t die), all billion billion billion of us and our immortal spawn, spiraling down the drain of the final black hole, where, by the way, we will continue not to die? No. That’s no good, either.
Death is good.
Plinky wants to know what part of life I find the most confusing.
I think I understand, in the abstract, why death makes life more interesting. I imagine we’d all get bored after several eons of existence, and, besides, with no death there are no new generations to come along with new ideas and modes and fashions. But I do not understand why this has to apply, specifically, to me. Or to you, for that matter. Individually, we should be allowed to live for as long as we find doing so interesting. Otherwise, what is the point?
Now, I want to emphasize that I’m not worried about what will happen to me after I die (nothing will happen to me after I die, just exactly the same way that nothing happened to me before I was born). It’s not fear. It’s more like disappointment, or anticipation of disappointment. I don’t want to miss anything cool that might happen after the viewport has been shut down.
Over the course of a two-month span in late 2009, my boyfriend (whose name is also Joe) lost his mother and one of his brothers — the one to mouth cancer, the other to, as they used to say, melancholia. A few days ago, we learned that Joe’s oldest sister has been diagnosed with what sounds like a serious form of cancer, as well as several other life-threatening diseases. She herself has been aware of her conditions for a while, but says that she kept quiet due to all the turmoil and anguish in the family already.
I guess the definition of middle age is when it starts to happen: people you know, people around you, people you’ve always taken for granted, peers and friends and family members, people your own age, even, start dying off on a regular basis. Or maybe the basis isn’t regular; it’s probably accelerating. An accelerating parade of illness and death from here on out. Joe and I are lucky. We are surrounded by people we love, people who mean the world to us, people we can’t imagine getting by without. Each of those people is going to die. We will lose every one of them. Every single one. If we don’t, you know, die first. No wonder old people are so hateful and impatient! Life must start to feel like a concentration camp or a Great War battlefield after a while, as the dead pile up on every side.
Just thought I’d say.