Jonathan Manker (thelotharingian) wrote,
Jonathan Manker
thelotharingian

Immortality

An interesting topic was discussed among some of my friends, and many of them held an opinion that I found to be very surprising. I thought I'd give an overview of this discussion and my opinion. I'd really like some feedback too.

The discussion was centered around whether someone would choose immortality if given the choice. Now I was under the assumption that no sane individual would choose immortality and would also make this choice for the right reasons. Although most said that they would not choose immortality under most circumstances, most also said that they would choose immortality if it included always being healthy, free from long term pain, free from physical deterioration, and included some loved ones also having immortality. In my opinion, no one should desire physical immortality under any conditions. I believe this belief is spiritually essential.

Now countless works of literature and movies have taught us that immortality is a bad thing, that is, being permanent beings in a non-permanent world, where we undergo loss and pain. However being permanent beings in a permanent world should also not be desired.

To put it short, absolutely no one can say with certainty what will happen when we die. Various possibilities include complete unconsciousness, reincarnation (into this world again or some other), heaven, hell, or a neutral underworld. If one feels he is virtuous and believes eternal damnation is not a possibility, none of these options is particularly bad. Socrates sums this up superbly:

"Let us reflect in another way, and we shall see that there is great reason to hope that death is a good, for one of two things: - either death is a state of nothingness and utter unconsciousness, or, as men say, there is a change and migration of the soul from this world to another. Now if you suppose that there is no consciousness, but a sleep like the sleep of him who is undisturbed even by the sight of dreams, death will be an unspeakable gain.... Now if death is like this, I say that to die is gain; for eternity is then only a single night. But if death is the journey to another place, and there, as men say, all the dead are, what good, O my friends and judges, can be greater than this?"

From popular fiction, Dumbledore tells us that, "To the well-organized mind, death is but the next great adventure." Will we be awakened into a new existence, or fall into a peaceful slumber? Either of these are adventures on which we will all embark one day.

Now why in particular is a desire for permanence a bad thing? Buddha, in particular, teaches us that desire for permanence is the cause of suffering. There is no permanence in this world, and even a want for permanence can trick us into believing that permanence is a possibility, even if we say we believe otherwise. In the Judeo-Christian perspective, the Bible shows the innateness of the desire of humans for permanence, as we were created into a world of permanence, or metaphorically, the state of all humans from birth. The Garden of Eden was a place of permanent happiness and immortality. Satan offered wisdom at the price of human immortality, chosen by the free will of mankind. Likewise we can, by our own free will, transform our desire for permanence into a love for the impermanent. We can appreciate the change in our world and in ourself.

No matter how much we may be able to do if we were immortal, there would come a time when we would want to move on. Existing in this world may simply become tiring--- while even this mode of existence will become like having to endure an eternity of the same activity over and over. The fact is, we truly only live because death awaits us--- there is no living without dying. Although there is purpose and learning here, we must one day move on, and embrace the next great adventure.
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