Politics and mortality; so it goes.
Last night, on the Colbert Report (a very credible news source, I assure you), the guest was a scientist who had just discovered how to genetically alter the chromosomes in mice in a way that reversed the aging process. The scientist guest spoke of how it would apply to humans, how old people could become young again and apply themselves to the workforce once more, how the prime of the mind could match the prime of the body. Stephen Colbert ended the interview with the sentence, “We are all going to live forever.”
My only reaction was to say out loud, though I was alone at the time, “That’s creepy.”
So here I am, writing blog after blog about how afraid of death I’ve been, defending it to myself in ways I’m only able to believe after they’ve been typed down through my own hands, calming myself down night after night by reassuring myself I’ve made it through one more day, surely the next one will come as well. Here I am blogging of balance and nature and humanity, and the moment someone presents me with a solution, a way around it, I become freaked out. I immediately write it off as some scientific mumbo-jumbo that can only take place long after I’ve gone like hover-crafts and jet packs. But this man was intent on implementing his science into society as soon as possible, as was Colbert. And though I know his show is rooted in the art of satire, I couldn’t help but notice how scared I was to think that this would excite someone, that someone would want this.
I am much too young to truly know what it means to fear for your own life. I’ve never been held at gun point. The only time I was ever in the hospital for something potentially fatal, I was much too young to understand the stakes at hand. I have been in a dangerous, frightening car accident, but even then there was something in my head repeating, over and over, “this will not kill you.” And I have certainly never been old enough to feel it was “my time.” But from what I’ve gathered so far, in all my years of living, is that fear of death is something inherited to us through birth and carried with us until our death. We spend our entire lives trying to come to terms with our own mortality. It’s the reason people go insane. It’s the reason people take chances. It’s the reason we have motivation to get up every single day, because every day we are still alive is such a blessing. Our fear of our own mortality is the strongest driving factor behind anything we do. It’s the only reason we do anything at all. There’s a threat, constantly scratching at the back of our brain, that we will never get the chance to do it again.
“Never” is something we are only able to conceive alongside mortality. It’s something we are able to count. To “never” be able to do something means we won’t get the chance for at least another century. We say things like, “never, not in a million years.” But even that is not a true measure of “never.” It’s infinite. And we don’t even know what that means, because we aren’t.
Perhaps if we were, we would be able to come up with an entirely new understanding of the world. We would be able to keep studying and researching and analyzing and writing and reading and procrastinating. But what would be our motivation for doing so? Because we have the chance, the ability? We will again a hundred years from now, and a thousand, and a million. The only way for one to lose their life would be for someone to take it. I suppose after that long, everyone will come up with an enemy.
And what if we all were here, living in eternal bliss, and suddenly a friend of yours became fatally ill. “You didn’t take the drug?” you’d ask, because by then it would just be called “the drug,” much like birth control is referred to as “the pill,” and they’d say no, because they would have to admit that the threat of eternity was a lot scarier than the threat of mortality. And then they’d pass away. And you’d be left with absolutely no understanding of what just happened to them, because you’ve never had to think about it yourself.
I guess it’s just as scary from both sides. Isn’t that just the way it goes?