As human beings we have a strong survival instinct, which makes us afraid of death, as it is something that we still don’t fully understand. But unfortunately a lot of people let it govern their life. “A life that’s all about death is no life at all.” Therefore immortality is good, because death isn’t a part of your life, but death can also be good if you accept it.
“And I am not frightened of dying, any time will do, I don’t mind.
Why should I be frightened of dying?
There’s no reason for it, you’ve gotta go sometime.” These are the quiet words spoken at the beginning of The Great Gig in the Sky by Pink Floyd.
Well my type of immortal I outlined at the beginning would feel pain. As a mortal the process of dying maybe painful so is bad ( according to Hedonism), so if you are immortal then you avoid that. That is only if you don’t go through the process of dying without dying, which is what my immortal would feel. Therefore death isn’t as bad for us as being immortal.
And the truth is that according to the “Deprivation Account”, death is bad because it means that you miss out of potentially brilliant experiences and things which are intrinsically good. I know this might be very obvious but when I am dead, I won’t exist, and that means I can’t enjoy the good things in life. But how can anything be bad if I don’t exist?!
In the play ‘The Makropulos Affair’ by Leos Janacek, there is a character Elina who decides to drink an elixir to live another 300 years. After 300 years, Elina could choose to take the elixir again and live for another 300 years, or she can allow herself to die. The opera/play concludes with her living out her years and, having become bored with her existence, choosing to death over another extending her life further.
So she chose death over boredom and immortality. This is interesting because clearly she started off believing that immortality is desirable. However, as time went on she realised the reality of what immortality is like. I think that immortality, based on my research is very isolating and boring, because if you do become close to someone, they will ultimately end up dying, and you would have to witness that, and that would definitely be very painful for you emotionally. The fact that Elina became bored with her existence, shows that it’s unpleasant living longer than your contemporaries.
But Leos isn’t the first or last person to think that being immortal would be boring:
‘The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’ claims that The Wowbagger accidentally became immortal and decided to insult every living being in the universe in alphabetical order just to kill some time.
I think that this is an interesting observation of the human (or Wowbagger) psyche, as after a long enough timeline, anything can become boring. Even watching your favourite TV show, going on holiday or eating ice-cream. You will end up having had enough, and wanting some change. Therefore, if you are immortal, no matter how many times you change the world, and live in different places, with different people, you will get sick and tired of it.
So if you get bored of living, then the only change that you can get is death. As a result death is good?
The counter argument for this is the ‘Deprivation Account’. Which essentially states that you are being deprived of all of the good things in life when you are dead, which is why it’s bad. According Fred Feldman, “If only I didn’t die then…” If I could just shift my life line, then it would in fact be better, because then I would be able to experience more of the good things in life. So instead of a shorter life, filled with good happenings is better than a longer one. Therefore being immortal is bad, as you can’t avoid bad things in life.
However according to Epicurus:
“Since, so long as we exist, death is not with us, but when death comes, then we do not exist. It does not then concern the living or the dead. Since for the former it isn’t and for the latter are no more.”
We shouldn’t fear death as either way it doesn’t concern us, so the question is ‘death or immortality good for me?’ is completely irrelevant. This is because as long as you are alive you don’t have to worry about death, since when you are dead, there’s nothing you can do about it due to you not existing.
Immortality seems to lower your quality of life to a point where it is just painful, boring and lonely to carry on living. And once all of the humans are dead, the world has crashed into the sun and universe has ended, then what do you do? Death has to be good then, as there is nothing we can do about it. I think immortality has to be bad then, if death can’t be.
So I guess what I really want to say is thanks but no thanks. Immortality isn’t desirable in my eyes. I wouldn’t like to be immortal, unless I was able to die and get reincarnated, without memory of my previous life. I don’t even mind if I’m not remembered after death, billions of other human beings have died before me without being remembered, and it never harmed them.
All I need is a happy, and fulfilled existence, free from fear, worry and regret.
“Take it while it’s there, don’t grieve when it’s gone. The band played Boogie and the people danced on.”