I just learned that some of my Silicon Valley friends are striving for immortality, in earnest—literal immortality. Regarding this, I can only speak for myself…
Presently I am an adult; supposedly I was once a baby. I have no recollection of my earliest youth; and my memory of the years in-between is hazy at best. In fact, I remember portions of Percy Bysshe Shelley’s life more clearly than my own, because I recently finished reading his biography.
One’s physical body is constantly welcoming in new matter and assimilating it to one’s existing flesh. Other aspects of that flesh are expiring and being discarded, all the while. In a sense, I’m not the same being that I was yesterday, or even an instant ago—I am in the flux and of the flux. And the flashes of experience that my memory snags upon contribute to the impression of a stable existence.
One’s self is thus, at least in part, a fabrication: it’s a real work of art. (I always like to stress that that last word is the root of “artificial.”)
So, being made of flux, and existing within flux, I see each individual self as a drift of change. Immortality is a perpetuation of the self. To buoy a drift of change through endless flux is what the body already accomplishes: memory barely survives from moment to moment. Thank luck for that.
It is easy to be born; yet it’s hard to recall what all of these atoms were doing before they became your body. Memory and imagination are one? But memory is a narrowing of the imagination; a bracing, a stiffening. And death is a freshening, a relaxing back into liberty: an unbinding of the body from its tendency toward control-freakdom; like an automatic fail-safe. In other words, death revivifies us into fancy: it frees us from our enslavement to the function of memory.
Mortality cures the downtrend of reality. Immortality would be the actualization of hell. This is both good and bad news.