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6 Ways to Beat Death and Live Forever

                        Repaire me now, for now mine end doth haste,
                        I runne to death, and death meets me as fast,
                             And all my pleasures are like yesterday;
                            I dare not move my dimme eyes any way,
                         Despaire behind, and death before doth cast
                        Such terrour, and my feeble flesh doth waste...
                                     - John Donne, Holy Sonnet I

I'm terribly afraid to die. I'm not afraid of death. Death pervades our culture and moves us to beautiful things. I've stared at dead bodies without recoiling. They weren't horrible. They weren't beautiful either. They were mockingly strange, teasing me with resemblance of someone I once knew. And tombstones, their arrangement row upon row, in all shapes festooned with words sometimes predictable sometimes not--they can be beautiful; and the urns in which the charred ashes of a once-animated body can be works of art. Edgar Allen Poe, Howard Philips Lovecraft, and the macabre writers back to and through Dante's descent into hell and Ezekiel's dry bones; EC comics, Hammer Studios, and all the pop cultural horrors; the cultural engagement with the possibility of the end of all possibilities that is death is endlessly fascinating to me. No, I'm not afraid of death. I'm afraid of dying.

Dying is not entering the unknown. It's entering perpetual unknowing. Never to see, never to know, never to experience and transform and do again. The world will move on without us. We're not suspended in a box where we no longer interact. We are forever excluded. Even without being able to know our loneliness, dying is the loneliest thing there is. Dying is always uniquely one's own and in that uniqueness we are forever and absolutely separated from all else.

Like the drowning man, I grasp at the floating wood hoping it can support me, hoping I can float to some shore "beyond the utmost bound of human thought," thousands of years into the future. I long to see the unfathomable changes spring up before me and sink behind me. If a scant hundred years can get us electricity, the moon, and the internet, what remarkable things are awaiting four thousand years from now? And why am I cursed never to see it? If those who dream of ways to live forever are correct, maybe there is a chance of living forever.

Let's have a look.

1. Nanotechnology

Good News: Okay, enough poetry. Let's dive into the hard world of technology. Anyone who has watched Star Trek: The Next Generation, as this nerd has proudly done, has heard of a nanoprobe. They're not just science fiction. The difficulty with making nanotechnology is, well, that it's smaller than our cells. So it has to be constructed nearly molecule-by-molecule. I won't pretend to understand the science. What I do understand is that if they can be programmed to repair cells, nanobots can effectively destroy aging. As Aubrey de Grey points out, the leading cause of death is aging. If we don't age, we can theoretically live indefinitely. Of course, the second leading cause of death is stupidity. The odds are that eventually some moron will hit you with a bus.

Bad News: If there is to be enough nanobots to do their work, they must be self-replicating. So there is a possibility that the nanobots will begin to transform everything they encounter into more nanobots. As they increase exponentially, they will transform all matter into nanobots until the entire universe will becomes a monolithic blob of Grey Goo. Whoopsy daisies.

2. Cryogenic Freezing

Good News: Well, we can't expect nanotechnology to develop overnight. It's possible I won't live to see it become a possibility. What I can do in the meanwhile is have myself frozen, right? That's right. There are procedures designed to freeze living tissue with minimal cellular damage. Contrary to what you see in movies like Encino Man, one cannot be unthawed from a normal block of ice. Cells are destroyed by the crystalizing effects of freezing. The techniques currently available are far from perfect. There is no way to take anyone out of 'suspension.' The hope is that at some point in the future science will be able to take those frozen out of the deep freeze and somehow ensure their cells aren't damaged. There are those who say, "It doesn't work! Why bother?" But it's like this: You have a much better chance of being brought back to life if you're frozen than if you're wormfood or ashes.

Bad News: What they don't tell you about cryogenic freezing is that they like to do this little medical procedure before they freeze you called--now get ready because this is very technical jargon--"decapitation"! That's right. They go all guillotine on you beforehand. Most of the cryogenic tanks are designed only for heads. There are a few that are designed for whole bodies, but not many. Moreover, these tanks are watched over by cryogenics societies, people who just happen to have an interest in cryogenics themselves; they are not necessarily top scientists or scientists at all. There's also always the possibility that the cryogenics institute won't pay its electricity bill and anyone frozen will start to melt like an ice cream sandwich.

3. Brain Transfer

Good News: This is probably my favourite solution. It may be possible in the future to upload one's mind to a computer. Hopefully not a computer running Windows Vista. But jests aside, assuming that the mind really does contain the whole personality, being able to transfer and secure copies of one's mind is an ideal solution. The destructibility this fleshy container for the mind will be done away with and we can last forever in computers, robots, and perhaps some day biological drones for our minds. Those biological drones can be clones or not; but they could offer the opportunity to experience being a physical human again. If it's destroyed, we always have a back-up mind for another drone.

Bad News: Who decides who gets transferred into a computer? Can our minds really be reduced to pure data? If our minds can enter computers, can our minds get viruses? And if our minds can be perfectly computerized, can't computers have minds of their own? There are a lot of questions about such a highly-speculative procedure that needs answering. The worst of the news at the moment is that it's probably so far off in the future I needn't worry about it.

4. Copying Procedures

Good News: Here's the most speculative of them all. Remember the episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation where it's discovered Scotty preserved himself in a transporter buffer? Well think about that for a moment. The way those transporters work is to transform the whole body into data and reconstruct the body from the data. So you're temporarily dead. And the length of that 'temporariness' can be extended indefinitely. As long as the folks in charge of transportation want to keep you in the buffer, a perfect copy of you is waiting to come into being. Not only can they wait twenty years to put you back together, they could even make two or three of you if they really desired. If such technology existed, we could have "saved states" for our own lives, kind of like what Microsoft Office does for your Word documents--y'know, for when Vista inevitably crashes.

Bad News: Is it really you? This is something that puzzles me. There's a copy of me. But didn't me, this me, this body, get torn apart? That copy just thinks it's me. It has all the same experiences, same memories. But in reality it was born at just that moment on the transporter. It's a haunting thought. It's possibly just ontological pedantry, though. Oh yeah, if the transporter chief is a nut, he can make dopplegangers; watch out for that! This is also another technology that's so far in the future it's not really worth thinking about.

5. Reincarnation/Rebirth

Good News: Hey, I'm open to ideas. Maybe these Hindu characters know what they're talking about. Maybe some essence of me will be recycled over and over again based on how good I am. It's a comforting thought. Socrates believed in a sort of reincarnation. He also believed you could recall all the knowledge you lost during the process of forgetting that occurs between lives. And of course there's no shortage of past-life regression charlatans to help you out.

Bad News: Even if it were true, it doesn't seem like anyone ever does recall their past lives. So it's difficult to see how realistically it is you who is reincarnated. I am my body and the experiences this body has been through; I don't know how I can conceptually separate my personality or 'soul' from my physical existence and my biography.

6. Heaven

Bad News: Doesn't exist.

Sorry, sorry, I got ahead of myself.

Good News: Well, if there were such a place as heaven, it would be great. You'd be detached from the action in the world, but presumably in a position to continue as a Knower. Knowing is more important than Doing for my personal fear of dying.

Bad News: There's something strangely sterile about the idea of being perched in an astral plain, detached from the real world, merely watching and/or rejoicing in the goodness of some deity. Don't believe me? I'll leave the great Peter Cook tell you.

So that's about the gist of it. Our prospects for living indefinitely don't seem great. But it's better than nothing.

The truth is, all we can really hope for is to do enough and create enough that really matters in the world, to touch enough lives and transform enough minds, that in some sense we go on influencing other people. We live forever in one another, in the species continuing, with our without our own DNA. Our minds have opened to greater levels of consciousness that evolution could have predicted and many of us recognize humanity as one great brother-sisterhood. It still hurts me not to see where this great human family of mine is going and how it will develop, how my little works in this world will influence it; because no matter what great things I do for the world, I can never feel the satisfaction if I'm dead.

Comments 37 comments

Torch Harrison profile image

Torch Harrison 6 years ago from Michigan, USA

This is GREAT! I've sent it to all my friends...many of whom take the whole concept of death as a form of comedy. More please!


Arthur Windermere profile image

Arthur Windermere 6 years ago Author

Thanks, Torch! Glad you enjoyed it. Perhaps comedy is a way of hiding from what death really means. Or maybe they do just think it's funny. Who knows?

Cheers!


drbj profile image

drbj 6 years ago from south Florida

Wow, Arthur. This hub is a testament to thoughtful, creative thinking and well-written to boot.

For me, your summary helps to crystallize why writers REALLY write. We want to leave something of value behind besides our families that will survive us. What do you think?


Arthur Windermere profile image

Arthur Windermere 6 years ago Author

Thanks, drbj!

I think many writers, especially the good ones, do write partially for immortality. James Joyce certainly did. Others write for money, or because they feel the urge, or just because they enjoy it.


Green Lotus profile image

Green Lotus 6 years ago from Atlanta, GA

Great stuff Arthur. I love the subject and now I have more ammo with which to spar. You know you're in good shape when you can look at it and laugh. Thanks for the fun, uplifting read. I understand your fears nevertheless. Akin to Woody Allen who says he's not afraid of dying, he just doesn't want to be there when it happens. rated up.


Arthur Windermere profile image

Arthur Windermere 6 years ago Author

Uplifting, eh? I find it all a little melancholic, despite my light tone. I guess you're more enlightened than I am. I'm still down in the gutter, but, as Oscar Wilde says, "looking at the stars."

Thanks for the kind words. Gotta love your positivity.

Cheers!


Jane Bovary profile image

Jane Bovary 6 years ago from The Fatal Shore

Death's a major inconvenience, that's for sure...but then I don't much care for immortality either.

I wouldn't want to be one of the cryogenic set. Who knows what posterity might do with your brain if they could get it going. Have you seen Dennis Potter's Cold Lazarus? [shiver]In the end he was begging to die...proving there are worse things than non-existence

I'm not happy with reincarnation...have I been good enough to come back as a higher form? What if I regress..? How can I be *me* if I'm an alley cat?

Downloading is promising but do I want to be tune 23 on some futuristic kids ipod?

I feel the same way as you though about the "missing out"...I'd love to read the next chapter of the human story. Oh well...I suppose we're lucky to have read anything at all. Terrific hub Arthur.


Arthur Windermere profile image

Arthur Windermere 6 years ago Author

Hey alley cat,

Nice to hear from you.

I haven't seen Cold Lazarus. I just read the plot summary on wikipedia. Very interesting. The summary doesn't go into the science of it, but presumably they have his brain in a vat? I've heard various Greek mythological cautions against immortality. Tithonous, who is immortal but continues to age, eventually shrivels into a locust. Why a locust? I dunno. That's the Greeks for you. And in T.S. Eliot's The Wasteland, he quotes (in Latin) this haunting passage from The Satyricon,

'I myself saw the Cumaean Sibyl with my own eyes, hanging in a basket, and whenever the boys asked her, "Sibyl, what do you want?", she used to answer, "I want to die."'

I'm sure you'll have lovely kittens.

Cheers!


Jane Bovary profile image

Jane Bovary 6 years ago from The Fatal Shore

He was in a vat/glass jar...though I can't remember the details. Gee that new profile shot really shows off your ladyfingers...I just noticed. Very delicate. Heh.

Immortality is not all it's cracked up to be...especially as a locust


Arthur Windermere profile image

Arthur Windermere 6 years ago Author

Mm hm. Thanks. Glad I didn't upload my "Live Long and Prosper" picture now. hehe


Momma Mia profile image

Momma Mia 6 years ago from North Carolina

Very interesting hub !! Your words " I am not afraid of death......I am afraid of dying" That captures an essence of myself......which some docs now feel I am dying....but I know I am living in more of a spiritual world now....I love it....and look forward to being there full time someday....until..I get to read great hubs like this!!

Thanks

Mia


CMHypno profile image

CMHypno 6 years ago from Other Side of the Sun

As Peter Pan said 'dying is an awfully big adventure'. Don't knock it until you've tried it is my philosophy, you might find that you have a blast in the afterlife. Live this life to the max, and try not to worry too much about what comes next.


Arthur Windermere profile image

Arthur Windermere 6 years ago Author

Thanks for the kind words, Mia!

I'm sorry to hear of your illness. But it's great you've found an intensified form of living in the face of mortality. I'm not myself a spiritual man, but I do know how right John Donne is when he says, "All my pleasures are like yesterday." The closeness of mortality can make our old, worldly priorities look like trinkets.

All the best in your spiritual path.


Arthur Windermere profile image

Arthur Windermere 6 years ago Author

Hi CM, nice to hear from you.

I wish I could be so glib about the subject of death, but I fancy myself a deeper man than Peter Pan. I'm afraid I incline more toward John Donne and Hamlet. Alas, poor Yorick!


Jane Bovary profile image

Jane Bovary 6 years ago from The Fatal Shore

I wonder if Shakespeare was an atheist, though of course he couldn't have said so at the time? Through Macbeth he wrote that brutal but beautiful soliloquy; 'All our yesterday have lighted fools the way to dusty death, out, out brief candle...etc'


Arthur Windermere profile image

Arthur Windermere 6 years ago Author

I suppose it's possible. He didn't seem to keen on the prospects of an afterlife, at any rate. There are some who suspect Shakespeare was actually a closet Catholic. For better or worse, he doesn't really give any clues about his religious or spiritual position.


Jane Bovary profile image

Jane Bovary 6 years ago from The Fatal Shore

I think that was a clue.....but I could be wrong.


Jane Bovary profile image

Jane Bovary 6 years ago from The Fatal Shore

And yes..I know Shakespeare didn't say it..


Arthur Windermere profile image

Arthur Windermere 6 years ago Author

Hehe goof.

I agree, you could be wrong. lol

But seriously, you could be right. It's a fair point. Maybe he was just that progressive. Unfortunately there's no way short of necromancy to confirm.


Stan Fletcher profile image

Stan Fletcher 6 years ago from Nashville, TN

My hat is off to you my friend. Great hub. This subject almost shuts me down at times. Being prone to depression, when I think of death, it's easy for me to say, "What's the use? And what's the difference? If I do well or not so well, it really doesn't matter." The simple fact is that know one who is living knows what's 'over there'. I'm more and more skeptical of those who are dogmatic about what awaits us.

Having said that, I want to go in my sleep. Or get hit by a truck, provided I don't see it coming. Prolonged, pre-death pain and suffering would be more than my feeble mind could deal with, I'm afraid.


Arthur Windermere profile image

Arthur Windermere 6 years ago Author

Hi Stan,

Thanks! Glad you enjoyed it.

That's true: we don't know. Consciousness could somehow survive beyond the death of the body. I wouldn't bet it on, but it might. Perhaps it lives on in some fifth dimension we haven't discovered yet. I'd like to think it's a dimension made out of candy, rainbows and unicorns. But that's just me.

I'm strangely superstitious about death. So I can't bring myself to say any way I'd prefer to go, just in case, y'know, the guy in charge of death hears me and thinks it's a good idea and, "I'll get right on that." Sort of like that. It's superstitious, I know. But the universe is very good at irony.

Cheers!


robie2 profile image

robie2 6 years ago from Central New Jersey

I love reading all the possibilities you project for an afterlife. Personally, I think there is something after this and that in some way some part of us is eternal, but in what way?? I have no clue and think we human beings are just not able to conceive of what it is. I have no interest in cryogenics, brain transfer or any of that stuff-- I hope to just die quickly and not have a long bout with some horrible degenerative condition-- no tubes and respirators please.

I don't worry too much about the hereafter--I figure I'll find out about it when I get there, and if I don't like it, I'll have a martini:-) Thanks for a great read


Arthur Windermere profile image

Arthur Windermere 6 years ago Author

Hi robie!

Glad you enjoyed the hub.

I'm afraid I just can't take this attitude of "I'll find out about it when I get there." A lot of people do, but I the matter of life and death too important. When we go on a road trip, we say, "Just in case we don't stop for a while, we'd better have a good breakfast and bring snacks." Since I don't know if there's an afterlife, I say, "Just in case there's nothing, I'd better try what I can to preserve this life." 'cause if you're wrong about this whole afterlife business, there won't even be a you to realize you're mistaken and have a martini.

This depressing thought has been brought to you by the letter A

Cheers!


Nellieanna profile image

Nellieanna 6 years ago from TEXAS

What a read! You have an intriquing mind.

At my age, it's bound to happen. But then, it is bound to eventually no matter what one's age. It's an epidemic - terminal, too! I'm not afraid of death or dying. I have no idea whether it's final or not, or if not - what else might be. Just that what is - or isn't - - most surely is or isn't! So may as well wait and see - or not. Anyway, until one learns how to make good use of here and now - which at least appears to have substance, whatever that is, - why ponder the imponderables of "after this"? - Because that is what we DO! OK.

In a way - that's what you just said in the previous comment. Trying to preserve this life meanwhile makes sense to you. Yes, for sure! Only thing, I don't find it depressing, if for no other reason than that entertaining depression is not what I'd consider a good use of this life I do have still!

My eye caught this quote but played a trick on me. It said "looking at the stars." For a moment I read it "looking at the stairs." haha. Well why not?

Thanks for a provocative hub, Arthur. Also - for your name. I knew someone named Arthur once and have been trying to recall the name. Met him on a plane. Nice name.

If you don't mind, I may just have to follow you so I can keep an eye on what you write!


Arthur Windermere profile image

Arthur Windermere 6 years ago Author

Hi Nellie! Nice to hear from you and I'm thrilled you're stalk--I mean, following me.

Fortunately I'm very resistant to depression of any sort. I agree that it's a waste of one's short time to be depressed. Like you, I take a more philosophical approach and try to make the most of life now. It's the one certainty. Apparently my idea of living life at its fullest involves writing for hubpages. Hey, I never claimed to be an adventurer.

Arthur Windermere is a pen name I took from an Oscar Wilde play ("Lady Windermere's Fan"). My real name is Jared.

Cheers!


epigramman profile image

epigramman 6 years ago

7. GET A VIDEO ON YOU TUBE

8. Die before death gets you.

9. Read Arthur's hubs - they will prolong your life and expand your mind.

10. Spontaneous combustion.


the pink umbrella profile image

the pink umbrella 6 years ago from the darkened forest deep within me.

My brother is deathly afraid of and paranoid about nanobots. Hes so convinced that zombies will attack in his lifetime that he sleeps with an axe under his bed.


Arthur Windermere profile image

Arthur Windermere 6 years ago Author

Hey epigramman! You rock!

Hey Pinkie!

Nanobots are pretty far away in the future, I think. And the zombie apocalypse is thankfully a fiction of George A. Romero. That said, I have a scenario worked out just in case. First I save a bunch of cute girls from zombies. Then I get out to a small island with them. Then we mate and mate and mate to repopulate the Earth with humans. It's more of a fantasy really. There aren't many zombies in it.


the pink umbrella profile image

the pink umbrella 6 years ago from the darkened forest deep within me.

Your going to need my address...just in case. ;)


Arthur Windermere profile image

Arthur Windermere 6 years ago Author

haha you just secured yourself a place on the Anti-Zombie Island of Love!


GEORGE 5 years ago

I really liked your article. thanks for doing it.


Alex Winter 4 years ago

Just got to point out infinite space and therefore infinite probability. so if you take your life and see that it is just one probability of infinite so... do what you like because it really don't matter if you don't do something its going to happen infinitely anyway, and already has happened infinitely, and is happening infinitely ...right now.

so your thinking why cant I just fly into the air right now, or shoot a ball of fire ...right now??!! well you were born and raised in this probability, you are the probability therefore nothing seems out of the ordinary to you, if you were born with the flying or fire power, you wouldn't think about it as being amazing...

also it is impossible to live forever "mathematically". think about it you may live for what, 20,3404303, 9999999999999999999999999999999 more years but you will never ever live for ever!!!!!!...... then again i so-pose that goes against infinite probability?????!!! this is were the human brain can't compute so are leave it at that :(

You also have to think about time, so we have years, months, days, hours, minutes, seconds, mil seconds............. where do we draw the line. You could say we live an infinite number of moments? but of course that's just math we really want to control are aging so we are free to do what ever the hell we want right??

OK i am done writing my thoughts down for one day. WOW and I just realized the last person to comment was like half a year ago =[ but if you see this Athur Windermere I don't know who you are I just found this site by accident but continued to read as I like what your saying. And please get back to me =P I know my ideas in this comment are a bit shallow and contradicting, let alone the bad English... but GOD i feel like writing a book or something now it would be like the bible but, like, 99999% better

Oh and I am voting uploading the mind to a mechanical life form but i think metal and robotic stuff will be out dated by the time we humans do something like that so.... uploading the mind to a very tough and clever martial that kicks ass!!

mother nature was a good parent to the human species she taught us well but its time we flew the nest and made are own decisions like a mature form of life.


The dude with the crazy ideas 4 years ago

Zombification..


Tessica 21 months ago

That's really thniikng out of the box. Thanks!


poetryman6969 profile image

poetryman6969 13 months ago

Some interesting ways to live forever. Alas I think some will have to wait a generation or two to come to fruition. I think that politics and religion may stop some of them. Who gets immortality and why? No matter what anyone says, thinks or feels the rich and powerful will get it first. But if a starving third world mother has ten starving babies, what use have they for immortality if they are about to die of hunger?


Ben 5 weeks ago

So you're cool with the possibility of Hindu reincarnation, but shoot down the concept of a Christian heaven right out the gate?

Obviously you have issues with Christianity you need to resolve outside of the internet.


Akshay 3 weeks ago

Excellent article.....Reincarnation is really a chance to fulfill your desires.

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