It is believed, humans are unique in that they alone are aware of their own mortality. This explains why humans quest the ultimate gift of immortality. We go about this quest in different ways, 1/making life all about us, 2/leaving a legacy, 3/believing in the afterlife of the soul or 4/having faith in a heavenly afterlife.
Stephen Cave writes about this in his book, The Quest to Live Forever. Another writer, The Mortal Atheist unpacks the premise of this book. Both the book and the blog are worth reading. The Quest for Immortality is a philosophical subject long debated through history.
1/Making life all about me
One way to try to make yourself unforgettable and live on somehow is making it all about you. Whatever you do, you are the focus. This ‘all about me’ attitude is seen a lot in today’s society. People just looking out for themselves, bullying their way through life, shoving others aside in the quest for a form of immortality that is fame and attention getting.
If there is nothing after death, then life is all about the now. Life also for these people lacks dimension and real purpose beyond self-serving. This can lead to selfishness, opportunism and vanity.
They reason if there is no soul or inner beauty, then I may as well focus on my exterior and have all sorts of cosmetic surgery and injectables to keep myself looking young. It is a modern-day version of the quest for the ‘elixir of life’.
These folk could be disappointed. Many a person has sought immortality this way and been remembered not as they wanted but as a misguided fool.
Like the young man who crashes his car into a tree thinking he is the hottest driver and guy out. But then he kills all his friends who were passengers. Not a good move. Or the businessman who embezzles funds so he can live the good life. All right until he’s found out.
2/ Leaving a Legacy
Then there are folk who want to leave a lasting legacy of some sort, so they are remembered as the amazing guy who did this or that.
Attempts at this form of immortality or legacy spur people to have their name in lights, on buildings, statues or written into history. It is what motivates leaders to start wars, run for politics or even like Hitler, wipe out races of people. Civilizations have risen and fallen due to this innate need to be top dog and leave a legacy.
Pyramids, Great Walls and temples are testament to man’s need for glory and /or quest for an afterlife, an immortality whether as an individual or race of people.
3/Believing in the immortality of the soul or spirit
This does not necessitate believing in a god or God. It is more about a warm and fuzzy feeling that we go on somehow as spiritual entities. it is more comforting and sustaining than believing in nothing at all. At least you might make an attempt at being a good person, so your spirit is a nice one to float around forever.
4/Believing in Immortality through God
Throughout history, religion and belief in a greater being, God, have filled the need to go on, this quest for immortality. Whether we are united in the afterlife with our creator or family, these concepts are comforting and give a purpose to life here on earth. Centuries ago, life was more fragile. Death could come at any instant and many children died young. Religion was a great comfort and gave purpose to our ancestors as it still does today.
Having a faith also, if adhered to properly, generally make us nicer, more considerate people. The creeds for living are set out in the religion and these rules and traditions are usually for the good of everyone. I am thinking of the mono theistic, one God religions like Christianity and Islam. Obviously, Mayan religions with their practices of child sacrifice did not benefit all! Nor does any religion if people don’t follow the creeds.
You may grow up in a faith or decide to embrace it at a later age or after much trauma. You come to a faith because it makes sense. Our bodies and nature are all too amazing and intricately designed to be just an accident or mutation. As a scientist, this is how I came to have faith.
Life on earth ends
By a certain age, we realize this life of ours will come to an end. Our parents dying is a subtle reminder of our mortality. Later friends of our own age disappear one by one, usually the men first.
Women do live longer in general. Their hormones protect them from heart disease and females even at birth are less likely to die. We girls are tough. We have to be to put up with men, raise children, keep on trucking and multitasking. Women are more often widowed than men becoming widowers.
Often, we have decades to ourselves. It used to be about resting up, charitable work and knitting. These days more older women are minding grandchildren or finding themselves homeless. Life doesn’t always get easier.
What is Life about?
Today so many are abandoning the traditions and rituals of religions and faith itself. This combined with the fragmentations of nationhood and the extended family, leaves many feeling alone and without purpose.
What is life all about? What is the point of going on? Social media can make it worse because it promotes the concept that everyone is more attractive and having a better time than yourself, mainly because it is all an allusion. Suicide and depression rates have never been higher for young people. Now they have to worry if they are male or female too because apparently you can choose your own gender.
The woes go on for the world which has no vision or belief to anchor to. That is why a time of contemplation, peace and reflection in an old stone church, a mountain top or forest can revive your sense of the wonder of life perhaps for you, even the wonder of faith. Easter is all about renewal and hope for the future. Stop and smell the roses. Realize the miracle of life.
Joni Scott is an Australian author with three published novels: Whispers through Time and The Last Hotel and Colour Comes to Tangles. Joni also co-hosts a women’s blog; https://whisperingencouragement.com/ and has her own website; https://joniscottauthor.com.