Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Chasing Immortality

Last night I finally watched Passengers, which I'd been meaning to see for months, because Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence. Honestly, I could have watched those two talk to each other for two hours and I would have been fine--have two more likable people ever existed?--but it turns out the movie itself is pretty great too. If you haven't seen it and don't mind spoilers, the premise is that two people have woken up too early on a 100+ year interstellar flight where everyone is supposed to be in suspended animation. There's no way for them to go back into hibernation, so basically they're going to die on this spaceship while all the other passengers and crew continue sleeping.

I particularly identified with Lawrence's character, Aurora Lane. Aurora is a writer planning a round trip so that she can return to Earth a couple hundred years in the future, the first writer to go to the colony worlds, come back, and write about the experience. Except now she's woken up early so that's not going to happen. So what does she do? She writes. She documents this horrible experience of being alone with a stranger on a spaceship full of sleeping people. As I watched this, I wanted to shout, "Yes, she gets it! Writing makes you immortal!"

There are a lot of reasons to write, I suppose, but as I've examined myself recently I've realized that it all comes down to my massive ego. I believe that what I have to say is so interesting, so important that not only will people besides my immediate relatives want to read it, but people who haven't even been born yet will want to read it. Not only will they want to read it, but the world will be a better place for generations to come if I can just get these amazing, wonderful, earth-shattering ideas out where people can read them.

The urgency of this need to speak to future generations has grown significantly since I stopped believing in an afterlife. I am quite honestly terrified of ceasing to exist. I wish I did believe in heaven, because living forever sounds nice, but I simply don't see the evidence to support that theory. This life is all I've got, so I am going to do everything I can to make my mark while I'm here. And what better way to achieve immortality than by writing, so I can live on through my words?

As much as I humor my ego with these grandiose plans and beliefs about my own importance, though, part of me still recognizes that dead is dead, published writer or not. William Shakespeare, Vincent Van Gogh, and Michael Jackson are not any less dead than an unidentified John Doe in the morgue. So at the same time that I plan for the inevitable future, I try to stay grounded in the present. If this life is all I've got, then I'm going to live it well, to enjoy this short time I have with my family and friends, and, if nothing else, have a positive impact on those close to me. Mika expresses this idea beautifully in "Last Party," his tribute to Freddie Mercury:

If it’s the end of the world let’s party
Like it’s the end of the world let’s party
Wrap your arms around everybody
If we’re all gonna die let’s party

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