I hate to sleep. For me it is the burden of my day. If I can, I like to stay up late and get up early. If I happened to stumble across a magic lamp and a genie popped out, (do you imagine the genie from Aladdin?) one of my obligatory three wishes would be “to not need sleep”. The rule being: I could sleep if I wanted to but I wouldn’t need to. For me this means I could always get the things done I wanted to do and also devote more time to others. However, this seems like my life would be one continuous life-long immortality. I’m not sure if this is a good thing?
The concept of immortality has often found its way into my thought. Immortality being the unlimited continuation of a person’s existence, this continues after death. In a nutshell, this implies a never-ending existence. Immortality has often belonged to religious traditions, but this topic has also been food for thought for philosophers such as; Plato, Pythagoras and Descartes to name a few. The beliefs in immortality have been compressed into 3 categories.
The Survival of the Astral Body
A lot of religions are of the belief that the body is made up of two separate elements: the body, this is me, you and everyone. This can be seen, touched, tasted, smelt and heard. The Astral body however, is what fiction would depict as a ghost. It’s different from the physical body as it can’t be touched but can be seen and has no solidity and therefore it could travel through walls. I imagine the astral body to be that of Casper the friendly ghost.
This suggests that when the body dies the astral body continues to exist. This is often presented in films such as the aforementioned Casper. I have often pondered about this notion of immortality. If the astral body leaves the physical body at the point of death and continues to exist in the reality of the physical body. This idea would actually argue against the notion of a heaven or hell, unless the astral body dwells in purgatory for eternity. What do you think?
The Immaterial Soul
This concept is very similar to the above notion in that they share the belief that humans are made up of two substances. The difference here is that it is believed that the substance that survives death is not a translucent cast of the body. Dualism invites itself to the immortality party, and has been partying since the 17th Century when Descartes and more recent philosophy have considered the soul to be identical to the mind, in which upon death, the mental attributes survive via the vehicle of an immaterial soul.
Religion also has some shares in the market of immortality, particularly Hinduism and Buddhism. They believe, as did some ancient philosophers that the soul emerges from the body at the point of death, and may find its way to commandeer a new body. I am speaking of course of re-incarnation.
But, if the immaterial soul does in fact re-incarnate, would the new body be conscious of a previous life? To be immortal it must. If not, the soul must “reset” memories, emotion, people, places and experiences. Would this constitute immortality?
The Resurrection of the Body
This understanding of immortality belongs predominantly to the three monotheistic religions. In which they believe that through the resurrection of the body, in order to be judged by God, it is then that immortality is achieved.
The notion of immortality has developed further connotations. The above examples are all regarding the individual’s personal immortality. However, there is another form of immortality present, which lies in the footprint in which people leave behind. For instance, William Shakespeare is immortalised by his works, Albert Einstein has been immortalised for his theory of relativity and Sir Alex Ferguson will be immortalized as the greatest football manager to have lived. Now immortality is not just present on the individual, people are immortalised by memories in others.
The concepts I have presented seem to reflect a positive view of immortality. However, I recently watched a talk from Juan Enriquez: Your Online Life, Permanent As A Tattoo. Enriquez posits a disturbing thought:
“What if all the electronic services we use are electronic tattoos allowing us to live forever?
This is a scary thought. We’ve all sent a text message and as soon as you hit the “send” button, you instantly regret sending it. We’ve no doubt all written something on the Facebook and instantly deleted it. Just me then? Having something that you have deleted doesn’t mean it ceases to exist, it still exists, just no one can see it. This is an issue, which is causing concern among privacy laws within the Internet community. What Enriquez is suggesting is that now, in this period of time, we have all been gifted immortality, it’s up to us whether we choose to accept it.
So with every tweet, every Facebook status update and every blog or comment on a news site, you are contributing to your own immortality. Don’t worry, just because your online life will continue to exist long after you doesn’t mean you will be exposed or even noticed.
The fact this blog will probably live longer than I do doesn’t mean it’s going to be read or acknowledged long after I’ve gone…or have I?