Immortality. We’ve all heard of it; it’s practically a buzz word in modern fantasy and across American vocabulary. To live forever; to shed the fear of death and stand among the ages as time unfolds before us all. Pop culture has romanticized this as both the unattainable and as the thing we must all want.
But immortality is a funny thing. As we grow up, we’re not truly confronted by our own mortality until we are old enough, wise enough, and perceptive enough to internalize death around us into being inevitably inclusive to ourselves. Otherwise, we go through life perceiving death from the outside.
If we think of life as the act of living and death as the absence of living, then it’s safe to say that our fear of death, while ingrained and founded as something we want to avoid, is nothing to fear in and of itself. This is to say that none of us are afraid of death in that it is death we fear, we’re afraid of death because it means that we are no longer going to have the things that we have now, including our lives, our families, and all the things that we have that make up our living experience.
Oddly, we view death as its own experience. But how can death be an experience? Even if you believe in some form of after life, reincarnation, or another invested form of life-after-death, death itself isn’t an experience. It’s the void of experience. Consider light and dark. Imagine that our experiences are all the light within an otherwise infinite dark in every direction.
As we observe the barrier between our sliver of light and the darkness beyond, we imagine experiencing the darkness as an absence of life. But what we don’t realize is that, as this metaphor applies to death, we can’t be on the dead side and look at life, mourning the loss and lack of it.
Immortality is often popularized because it is inherently a dream of all mortal creatures faced with their own inevitable, personal apocalypse, that we prolong and extend the arrival at such an event with all our intellectual, physical, and spiritual capabilities. We don’t want to die, and so we engage in what ever subterfuge of our own psyche that we need to in order to grasp and accept it. For some, this is heaven, for others, it’s ignoring it.
We also perceive others’ immortality, without realizing it. To us, they are gone, yet their lingering memory is what maintains our perspective of them. Over time, we change, and so too does our memory of them, yet even as this transformation happens, they remain in the same state. Only we change, only we perceive differently.
When a meaningful celebrity dies suddenly and unexpectedly, we mourn them. We hope remember them for what they had done, we try to reason, and determine, and internalize, for our fears or for our hearts to find meaning and solace.
But does immortality exist?
If life is an aggregate of experiences, and those experiences are what define how people perceive us, even after we’ve gone, then the extension of those experiences might be the closest thing to immortality that any of us may ever have.
Take John Lennon. He passed many years ago, even before some of those who listen to his music were born. Yet, despite that he is no longer with us in the same experience-exciting way that we are accustomed to a person being alive is, his music and his words still land on our ears as assuredly as if he were to just have spoken them.
The experience of John Lennon continues, not just digitally, but within us. He still brings us warmth with his music, inspires us with his story, and lives on in each of those who continue to perceive him.
So then, death may not be when our hearts stop beating or when our bodies discontinue performing the jobs we’ve grown accustomed to doing, perhaps it is when the world has forgotten us. Right?
The day will come when all that we know will be some long and distant memory, swallowed by time and remembered even though perception by none. The day will come with the Earth will not exist, that the human race will not exist. Perhaps it is approaching, or perhaps it is not for millions and millions of years.
But the day will eventually come when all that we have previously defined life being will settle away from existing. So this must be true death, right?
The human body is made up of the same kinds of compounds and atomic material that the first stars of our cluster were. They were the first condensed material that were ejected by the big bang 13 billion years ago, and yet the building blocks of our existence have endured.
When the universe finally settles into heat death, or collapses in on itself, or settles into another unknown future, the atomic substances of all our creative combinations will still exist in some form. We may not breath, but we will exist — together.
So if that’s the case, where is death?
And that brings me to my point. We are already immortal. We beg for our perceptions to be preserved as a way of maintaining the unique light we have shown upon the world in our brief time here, but the truth is that we are but mere expressions of the same, massive, unfathomable universe that has always existed and will always. The gathering magnitude of all that is remains as the substance that makes up you and I.
We are all stardust, we are all things. No matter what your belief system is, we can all agree that it is simultaneously unifying and dwarfing at the magnitude of our individuality supplemented by the magnitude of our unity.
The universe is in you, and it is expressing itself in a way that cannot be duplicated. Embrace the power of your individuality before we all become one once again. Live here, in the present moment, where all of time and all of life and all of the universe spins in expression universally. An expression that is both you and the mirror. Your eyes as you read and the paper that you read from. The ideas that you have and the mind that conjured them.
Be your amazing, perfect, brilliant self, just as the entire universe has wanted you to be. Do not fear death so much so that it restricts capability of living.