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I read Post Secret via my RSS feed every Sunday. Sometimes I can't relate to some of the secrets that are posted, but most of the time I am touched, moved, amused or saddened by the things that people confess to. This one, posted today, struck me cold and silent for a moment. Isn't this SO TRUE? I can't grasp it either. I can't fathom the fact that I won't live forever. Can you?

We talked about it a bit at book group on Thursday night, though the central focus was, of course, on books, and the central anguish in all of our reader's hearts that we can't get everything read before we die. No matter HOW long we live. One woman said it was a comforting thought: that books will never end, that there will ALWAYS be something that she still wants to read, but most of us were horrified and almost angry at the idea that we would never be able to finish all the books out there that are waiting for us to read them.

If I ONLY read the books on my wish lists, I could manage it, assuming I don't die in the next 4-ish years, and assuming I read as many books in each of those years that I did this year (which is doubtful, though possible, I suppose), though assuming that I won't re-read any books that I already have is really pushing the boundaries of believability. And it would also be assuming that I wouldn't be adding anything new to the list which is laughable, since authors won't stop writing good stuff that I want to read just so I can achieve my goal of reading everying on my list...and I wouldn't want them to, besides.

But I can't really grasp the concept that I won't live forever. It's not that I think I'm immortal; that would be foolish, plus the evidence is so damningly to the contrary, alas. But the idea that I'll just STOP someday is impossible to hold on to; my slippery brain slithers around it and dances away with its hands over its ears, chanting LA LA LA! I CAN'T HEAR YOU!*

(I'll just pause here for a moment while the vision of my brain with its hands over its ears, SINGING, comes to life in your minds. Got it? No? Yeah, I know, it made my brain hurt too for a moment. Moving on!)

The idea that I won't know what HAPPENED, the end of the story, the end of ALL the stories of the people and things I care about, is unconscionable. That this collection of facts and emotions and memories and feelings and idiosyncracies and habits and anecdotes and experiences and education that makes up ME won't just continue, ad infinitum, world without end, forever amen, is just too bizarre a concept to be real.

Some people say that they wouldn't WANT to live forever, but I don't believe them. I think what they mean is that they wouldn't want to live forever in an elderly, non-functioning, depleted body, perhaps senile or crippled or ill. But who wouldn't want to continue as they are, if they are healthy and fit and full of enjoyment in life? Why would you want to stop, then? Why would we ever want to stop?

So, we just keep going, in the hopes that we can enjoy as much of it as possible before our time is up, that we can learn more and read more and love more and treat each day as if it were our best, not our last; not agonizing too much over the fact that some day, hopefully far, far in the future, it will be.

Funny Punny Surely Sunny Birthday Wishes to somebodystrange!

*Title from a quote by Brian Kessler
mood: indescribable
music: Erin McCarley—Love, Save the Empty


Oh, yes - that dizzying brain thing that overwhelms in the face of the almost-accepted fact that I will one day cease being.

I have imaginary conversations with my recently-departed father-in-law in which I say to him, "How about that? You never did have to make the decision to move to a retirement home. Those bushes you were trimming were finished later that week by Björn. I cleaned up your breakfast dishes that day. You didn't get to go to the dinner party that night and the flowering plant you had already bought to take with you were put next to a burning candle and a photograph of you at the breakfast table. Whacha think about all that?"

And he answers me, "Well! That's how it goes, I guess. I wasn't planning to leave, you know."

"I wasn't planning to leave, you know." ...oh! see, that's what it is. You never plan to leave, I suppose. Obviously since I'm not yet elderly I don't know if I'll be ready to go at some point, but I honestly can't imaging being ready to STOP being.

*sigh* I know the feeling. As much as I read, books still make their way in to the rough and tumble piles on top of the bookshelf, which makes up the 'to be read' list. I'm always ordering (used) copies of books, each arrival eliciting squeals of surprise and joy as I unwrap them, even as I know what the package contains. It's like Christmas for a booklover, but all-year, and I'm my own Santa Claus.

So true! Totally like Christmas! I love ordering books (new or used)'s totally that Christmas morning feeling when I unwrap the package. :)

I was having similar flashes last night, actually. For the first time ever I looked at Dave and I thought, "one of us will outlive the other."

And then I looked at my kids and had the same thought.

It's weird how much we ignore, and just put out of our minds day to day. I mean, it's right, and it's good, but sometimes odd.

It's an awful harsh reality that I'm sure no one wants to face, thinking about the fact that one of us will outlive the other (especially in regards to the kids). It IS odd, I agree.

I wouldn't accept Eternal life but I might accept Eternal youth.

"My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!"

Hmmm.. would I choose immortality? Well, maybe, if only to read the books still on my "to read" list, which as you know is as bad as your list. I just can't read fast enough and my clock is ticking faster than yours. I would take it, at least initially. How else would you experience all you ever wanted? One lifetime is just too short. Of course, I'm sure the ennui would kick in eventually, and then there would be no way out.

It would also depend on who else would be immortal. I mean if I did not age and everyone around me did I wouldn't be able to live a normal life. I can't imagine L-G being 80 and me still looking like my gorgeous 20 year old self (*snork*). Then having to watch my children and grandchildren die before me? I don't think I could do it.

What I would be most worried about though, would be how well human psyche would handle things. First of all, even if your couldn't be physically harmed, you might sooner or later face insanity in some form or another. Humans unfortunately aren't as much in control of their own minds as they like to think. Many mental illnesses are never fully curable and I think no one likes the idea of having to struggle to keep your sanity, which I suppose is very close to the core of what is you. Somehow living forever insane just strikes as a very unpleasant idea. Perhaps because with eternity of time, you have a fair change of finding happiness, but you and especially your mind is the tool you use to achieve that. It's hard enough staying okay with a finite span, an endless one is just...well, tempting fate. We are not built to last forever, not physically, not mentally, not emotionally, and no magic pill is going to change that.

On the other hand, death is an efficient method of recycling the resources tied up inside a body, so I guess that's a good thing if you think in a dispassionate way about the whole death/rebirth cycle. It would be nice if it was more of an opt-in process though. :)

Re: I wouldn't accept Eternal life but I might accept Eternal youth.

Mad, schmad. It's a weird thing to contemplate, for sure. And even if you can manage a dispassionate view of the whole recycling process, which I totally can, somehow the brain short of sideslips when it comes to your SELF, your BEING, your CONSCIOUSNESS.

You raise some really interesting points, for sure. I wouldn't want to live forever if those I loved couldn't also. It's more a matter of having a hard time accepting that I WON'T be around forever, getting to see what happens next, than that I actually WANT to live forever, if that makes any sense.

Living forever...everlasting life...Were humans made simply to live for a few years and then die? Because of the religion I am in I've done alot of research/pondering over this...talking about reading books consider this:
Scientist Carl Sagan states that the human brain could hold information that "would fill some twenty million volumes, as many as in the world's largest libraries." Why was the human brain endowed with such a capacity if it was not to be used? Is it not reasonable that humans, with the capacity for endless learning, were actually designed to live forever?
I'm quoting from a book I have, but my personal belief is that man was created to live forever. That, of course, is not possible now but the Bible ( and thats if you believe the Bible is a book of God and not of men) promises that the earth will be brought back to its original purpose and man will live forever on it. I personally want to live forever as a healthy person with all my loved ones and read everything forever lol. I know it seems like an impossible concept and the main stream religions do not teach it even though the whole Bible is full of the words "everlasting life" Psalms 37:29 Anyway...hope I didn't offend or get preachy. I'm so NOT preachy...I swear!(so feel free to delete this comment) At the same time though I think all of us, deep down were created with the "desire" to live forever for a reason..we were meant to.

Actually, for my part, anyway, it's not so much that I WANT to live forever, so much as it is the fact that I can't grasp the concept that I'll STOP someday.

You want my 'brian' to work that hard right after a train trip? You've got nerve Liz.

OK, let's see...
I guess I mightn't want to live forever but I'd like to live a good long time in a healthy body with my friends having the same pleasure. Maybe my death could be based on when the good books run out, OK? But my friends and family better start reading more too so that we could all be happily reading together.

My brian is having a hard time with the whole thing, too and profusely apologizes to yours for any extra work it might have been subjected to. :D


oh my! this post stopped me dead in my tracks (no pun intended). this post was downright visceral. it is hard to fathom, this idea that someday i will be gone and i try to live every day with this notion, to pay attention to the moment. but so often, i get caught up in the nitty gritty. i should print that poster and stick it to my fridge as a daily reminder.


ps - i forgot to sign my name, pretty lady.


This entry was a fascinating read! For me, it's not so much the feeling of not living forever. What hits me sometimes is the thought of some day suddenly losing everything I know and love. I'm not religious, but my spritual beliefs include an afterlife; I don't doubt that I will be conscious of things even after I pass on, albeit in a different way. More clearly? More enlightened? I can't say, but I feel that I would know I'd left everything familiar behind me.
I'm a generally happy person, but I'll be honest and say I don't always live each day as if it were my last, living life to the fullest as maybe I should. I also never regret things, so maybe that balances it out.

I agree - it's the feeling of losing everything you know and love that is so disturbing, and not actually the idea of living forever.

Edited at 2009-01-19 07:28 am (UTC)

Our stories continue, maybe in a different form

Ever since I became a storyteller I've wanted to publish my stories. Then, I'd continue after I'm gone. Someday that will happen!

Our lives, our stories (whether recorded or not) change the world. Nothing can end. It's the law of energy conservation: Energy cannot be created or destroyed, only converted from one form to another. Our stories, our lives go on and on. Our words and actions stretch out into the world, and change it just by being.

When I was a kid, maybe 9 or so, I had this idea about books. That our lives were really stories in a book. When we are awake, someone has opened our book. When they close the book, we sleep.

That said, no I can't imagine not "reading" my book. Maybe we're immortal because life after we're gone is unimaginable, unthinkable (Yeah, we can think of what it'd be like but experience, no? Not in a human-life form.

Re: Our stories continue, maybe in a different form

Have you read Inkheart by Cornelia Funke? It's a story about a man who has the ability to read people in and out of stories. Brings up all kinds of crazy thoughts about the nature of reality.

I think there is something comforting about knowing that we will never run out of books. That when we reach our goals, there will always be new goals. That the possibilities are infinite. For me that doesn't make the things I have achieved feel less any less real or worthwhile. I'm glad that there will always be new challenges.

Dirk's oma lived to 94. She was fit as a fiddle till the end. She said the hard thing about growing older was not her deterioating health (her health was quite okay) but rather the fact that most of the people she had loved and shared her life with slowly died off. She was the last one left. I suppose you meet new people, but the process of grieving everyone you once knew is painful. So, yeah, maybe being immortal would only be fun if everyone else was immortal too.

You'd get along wonderfully with my friend Janet :) She felt exactly the same way.

Thank you for the birthday wishes! And the accompanying post about mortality.


hahaha! I didn't even think about it that way! Well, at least I didn't wish you OLD FART birthday wishes, like I would if it was my brother! :D


You're absolutely right in that it's mind-boggling to realize that we won't live forever - at least, not here on Earth. I think we can't think about it too much - we'd get impossibly skewed and morbid - but I do think it's funny that your friends were upset that there were books that would go unread! You know I love my books but I've never thought about it that way!

:) Sam

Doesn't that ever get you? The book thing drives me crazy frequently. I get really spazzed about it.

I've been having similar worries lately, though more about the books I won't get to *write* than the books I won't get to *read.* I kind of gave up on new reads after [1] moving to a foreign country that has no English books in libraries, [2] giving birth to a precious little time vortex, and [3] getting hit with some major bills that have to be taken care of before I can buy books again. I do understand the frantic feeling; it's harder to squelch some days than others. I just hope that I can anticipate my death enough ahead of time to make my last days really count. (On the other hand, I would probably spend my last days freaking out at the thought of dying. I mean, ceasing to exist can't ever feel ENTIRELY pleasant, right? But I would hate to die without any warning. But I would want to be all skewed and morbid like Sam said. Argh. I'm glad it's not up to me.)

haha! I'm kind of glad it's not up to me either, though I WOULD like to get all the books on my list read :)

What a totally awesome post! This idea is so pertinent to me these days, brushing my teeth, pulling back the bed sheets, tucking the hair behind my children's ears. And it is inconceivable. I, however, don't want to live forever. It's not the old thing. But somehow death adds value to today, it acts as a framework to give poignancy to the now. I just fear the later, is all.

Yeah exactly, it's not wanting to live forever, it's the inconcievability of not just continuing that is so mindboggling.

I don't know if I've ever truly given it thought. I guess I have... and I guess I can't wrap my brain around it either... but maybe also I've lived so long with the idea of reincarnation and the idea that we are beings who evolve over eons of time that this lifetime has stopped having utter and finite meaning to me.

(Stop rolling your eyes. Your mom would SO get what I'm saying!)

I don't roll my eyes about reincarnation, at least not most of the time :) I do if you say you were Cleopatra, though! :D

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