A couple months ago, I was listening to the "Cosmic Queries - New Mysteries of the Universe" podcast episode of StarTalk with Neil deGrasse Tyson.
In the episode, the topic of living forever came up, and Neil said something that really resonated with me. So much so that I think now, at 25 years old, I finally know what "having an epiphany" feels like. I would even go as far as using "spiritual" as an adjective describe the moment. (And coming from someone who has, let's say, "non-traditional" beliefs, you can imagine the gravity of that statement).
It started with Neil commenting that the desire to live forever is, in his opinion, a misguided concept. This is the kind of thing that would pique my interest anyway, but it's what he said next that really flipped on the light bulb.
Suppose that you actually live forever; then what is the value of "tomorrow" to you?
Knowing that I am going to die is a fundamental part of what creates meaning for any moment I'm alive.
And if a day goes by where I didn't discover something, or learn something, or play with my kids, or go on a play date with my wife, or contribute to this world in some fundamental way, I wasted that day.
And if I lived forever, I would not have the state of mind that I could waste any time at all.
Now, this episode was put up on StarTalkRadio.net back in March, but I didn't get around to listening to it until late-April.
I ended up posting the quote to Facebook as a way to capture that moment. But, as it happens often when things are put on Facebook, I eventually forgot all about it.
This epiphany was supposed to be my own personal call-to-action, my motivation to wake up and actually contribute something to the world (beyond just waking up, going to work, paying the bills, and going to bed). But oh how easy it is to let the the busyness of day-to-day life push it back to the long-term storage department of my brain.
By some stroke of luck, this quote jumped back into my conscious brain this afternoon. And after discovering how annoying it is to mine my Facebook activity (so that I could find the post and reacquaint myself with the quote), I decided I need to find a better way to capture this moment.
So here I am, writing a sort of stream-of-consciousness in a format that will be easier for me to find again in the future. This is not something that I want to forget again. I mean--let's be real--I will probably forget about it many times over. But I think that leaving it here will increase my chances of stumbling upon it again. If nothing else, it will certainly make it easier to find when this next pops back into my consciousness again.
If you want to take a listen to the original conversation, it was prompted by a user-submitted question about using science to extend a lifespan by 100-200 years. That full exchange starts at 45:30 of the recording. However, if you want to skip ahead to Neil's comments specifically on "living forever," then that you can find at 47:45.
Or just tap the Play button below to listen to the entire episode.