This is a Sunday morning blog which means I just had coffee and looked through the Sunday morning New York Times. I am telling you this so that you have at least an approximate sense of my psycho-physiological variables of the moment. In my estimation, these variables of caffeine and news are entirely irrelevant to the point of this bit of writing.
I want to reframe the issue of immortality for you in a manner that makes practical sense. I am not talking about technical immortality of a life-form that doesn’t die. I am talking about immortality in a felt sense.
As an existentially oriented therapist, one of my “hidden” agendas is to help people not fear death, which is the same as saying help people learn to live life. Afraid of dying and not believing in an afterlife, many of us unconsciously chase so-called symbolic immortality. Symbolic immortality is when you work hard to create some kind of legacy that will keep a memory of you alive long after you are gone. Symbolic immortality is a misnomer: legacy is just an informational footprint.
Just because Trump Towers will keep on standing after the eponymous Donald Trump kicks the bucket, it doesn’t mean that he will have somehow remained alive. Informational legacy is just collective memory but memory is not existence, memory is not a happening but a memory of a happening.
So, then what’s the alternative? The alternative, simply, is Experiential Immortality. What’s that? Well, to understand what that is we have to imagine for a moment what a felt sense of immortality would be like. If you were, in fact, immortal, i.e. somehow immune to death, that is, undying, you would stop thinking of death since death would lose all meaning. Can we – the mortals – afford such a mind-state? Of course. Mindfulness – functionally – is timelessness. When you are engrossed in a moment of living (like I am right now while writing this blog and like you are right now reading this blog), death is not on your mind (except for now since it’s the topic of this post).
It also helps to understand that there is no time as such. Time is not a physical stimulus but a psychological response to reality (that’s why time drags on and speeds up depending on how we deploy our conciousness). Clocks are not really measurement devices: unlike thermometers and tire gauges they have no sensors, they receive no input from reality, they translate no data. But that’s going a little too deep for a Sunday morning blog. I’d need another cup of coffee to explain this with more clarity and I am trying to keep my intake of caffeine down.
So, let me wrap this mess up with the following aphoristic farewell: immortality is available to you at any time; when you immerse yourself in a moment of timelessness, death becomes just another word that has no felt meaning.
Resources: chapter 11 (From Here to Here) of my book, Present Perfect, is on Normalizing Your Relationship With Time
Cup of coffee photo available from Shutterstock.
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Last reviewed: 9 Apr 2012