30.6.09

The Eternal Now

A somewhat dreary, rainy West Coast afternoon seems the perfect opportunity to begin a post with a well-known Susan Ertz quotation.

Millions long for immortality who do not know what to do with themselves on a rainy Sunday afternoon.

I always thought our only chance at immortality was in making an outstanding contribution to humanity. It was in this sense that Ben Jonson was able to declare, in his poetic tribute "To the Memory of My Beloved the Author, Mr. William Shakespeare", that the playwright remained alive even after his death.

Thou art a monument without a tomb,
And art alive still while thy book doth live
And we have wits to read and praise to give.

I'm afraid the possibilities I have of making such a contribution are dwindling by the year. Perhaps a certain maturity has replaced my youthful hubris because I am pretty sure I will be remembered by only a very few people when I'm gone.

But then I come across Aubrey de Grey on TED talks and I discover that I do have a chance at literal (as opposed to literary) immortality. Personally, I think he's a quack. But, supposedly, the science is "not demonstrably wrong"! The amount of discussion generated by this guy's talk is amazing! People really do want to live forever. Forever young, of course, not simply forever!

For now, I think I'll just keep living my life with the assumption (blinkered, if you will!) that I'm going to die. Probably within the next fifty years.

Yikes! That doesn't give me much time!

And that's the point, surely. The fact is that we do not live forever and that is why time matters.

This talk by Philip Zimbardo oulines some thoughts of his in relation to time. He also seems a bit quack-ish to me, although in a different way. He's part of a generation of social scientists who really thought that their insights could improve humanity. These particular insights aren't perhaps as obvious as I'd first thought, and therefore might be worth sharing.


Zimbardo is interesting for other reasons, of course, and I might do another post on him soon.

No comments: