It’s a peaceful night, with the moon shining brightly to bring light to the night’s darkness, with the echo of crickets in the distance and an occasional hoot of an owl reminding you it’s still the night. You gaze up to the sky admiring the twinkling stars, as all your day’s troubles begin to fade away. You begin to wonder how these stars came to be and why they always twinkle. All these thoughts weigh on you, making you sleepy little by little. You sleep with your thoughts and dreams to wake up into a world that has changed from yesterday, one that is better or worse, till you fall asleep again tonight.
What if you can cherish this peaceful night forever? Does that mean you get to live forever?
Scientific studies on living forever
Many studies are being conducted as of the present, to achieve this long-desired feat of living forever, which humans wished for, since the beginning of their existence. Gerontology, which is the study of the physical, mental and social aspects of aging seeks to find the secrets behind aging. Although the prime objective of gerontology is not to live forever, these studies may help us get one step closer to that goal. Similarly, other research is being conducted on how to replace aging organs of the human body with man-made organs, allowing a person to live longer. This is just one aspect of scientific discoveries.
There are other beliefs among scientists that people would be able to upload their mind to a computer, just like installing a program or an application to a computer, enabling you to live in that computer even if your body ceases to be. Although it seems so far from reality, scientists believe they can get closer to this by the end of this century. So, if you’re lucky enough to live that long, you might end up living forever!
But is this literally a ‘forever’, or is it just a word that we use instead of a ‘very long time’.
Can you actually live forever?
We live in a world, or rather a universe, where everything is impermanent. The peaceful night you had yesterday can easily fade away with a big storm. The stars that you see today might be destroyed already far away in the sky. The crickets and the owl won’t live forever, nor will you and I, and the sun and moon will cease to exist, in a day which we call the end of the world.
You may be living a happy life, a healthy life, but humans aren’t able to live forever, not even through medication, science and what-not that we may have in the future. There will be a time in which all beings or all organisms or even all things in the universe will cease to exist. Even the word ‘forever’ will be long-forgotten.
So living for eternity is not something achievable.
So if you can’t actually live for eternity, what does it mean to live forever?
If you’re asked a question, how many people do you know by name that lived over two thousand years ago, your answer would be – only a handful. Those people have done great things for the world, discovered something great, or preached to bring about a change in humanity. The names of these individuals do live on for a very long time and might possibly be the closest to ‘forever’.
So let’s first have a look at who these people are and what they have done.
Out of those individuals that you know, the religious leaders are the most well-known. Now there may be a number of factors that may have caused these leaders or their ideologies to be popular such as colonization and missionary movements but their preachings or way of life still live on at the present day.
Monarchs and Warriors
We’ve read and heard about so many kings, queens, emperors and warriors from way back. The deeds they did, the lands they conquered, the structures they built and the wars they fought still live on and will continue to live on for a great time.
Scientists and Artists
Many scientists, especially those who were born after the medieval era have done some great discoveries which have helped mankind to get to where they are now. Similarly, artists have played a role in changing people for the greater good. Their names too live on.
So how can your name live forever? Do you have to be a religious leader, an artist, a scientist or a monarch? Not quite.
How can you leave your mark in the world, for your name to live forever?
Mother Teresa, Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King, Jr, Mahatma Gandhi. There’s no need for any introductions of these people because they are well-known and they will live on, at least for a really long time. None of these leaders were religious (except for Mother Teresa who was honored by the Catholic church) but they all had something in common, they raised their voice for the sake of humanity or they made an impact in the world by doing good.
You don’t have to be a Gandhi or a Mandela to leave your name. You can start by changing your life and changing someone else’s life.
Say you don’t have a steady income that you can afford to share a portion with the needy, volunteering is the way to go. Volunteer to help in your local children’s home, help clean the lakes and beaches, help to feed families that are poor, volunteer to build roads or bridges or you can even volunteer to teach something to children who don’t have access to proper education. This is another step closer to living forever.
Poverty is one of the biggest problems in the world right now. It is our duty to give back to society or at least the part of the society that needs your help. You don’t have to be rich to do charity. You can always share a portion of your income with the poor. Doing charity alone will not mean your name lives on forever, but it’s one step closer to that. And the person you help will surely remember that for a very long time.
Donate your blood or organs.
There are people who need your blood or your organs to live. Donating blood is easy and we can all do that. The person receiving your blood wouldn’t know that it is your blood, but they will be grateful to you nevertheless. There are also ways to sign-up to donate your organs when you die. Surely the receiver will know they are your organs and they will be grateful, and who knows that person may end up living forever with your organs!
Stand up against injustice
This is something we can all do regardless of whether we are young or old, rich or poor. Standing up against injustice. The injustice may not always take the shape of discrimination or harassment, but there will be minor issues for which you can stand up to. You can raise your voice in those situations to act against injustice. You won’t certainly be world-famous, but you will live on in the minds of people who failed to stand up and in those who you stood up for.
You cannot live for centuries and you cannot certainly live forever (at least not right now). What you can do is to change your life or someone’s life to make the world a better place to live. According to one of my favorite authors, human oblivion is inevitable.
“There was a time before organisms experienced consciousness, and there will be time after. And if the inevitability of human oblivion worries you, I encourage you to ignore it. God knows that’s what everyone else does.”
― John Green, The Fault in Our Stars
All will be forgotten over time, maybe in a century or a thousand years. But till that day comes, your name can live on. That is what I believe is to ‘live forever’. If you’re someone who didn’t care or who looked the other way, turn your life around, to change the world and live forever.
By – Upeka Fernando
Showcasing Team – AIESEC in USJ